Minneapolis authorities have decided not to charge Chinese billionaire Liu Qiangdong in a sexual-misconduct case, bringing to a close a turbulent period for the founder of e-commerce site
since he was accused of rape in late August.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said on Friday that there were evidentiary problems with the case that would have made charges difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
“As is the case in many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in the release. “It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual.”
Mr. Liu has consistently denied all wrongdoing. Jill Brisbois, an attorney for Mr. Liu in Minneapolis, welcomed the decision.
“After a thorough investigation, with which he fully cooperated, the declination of charges vindicates him,” Ms. Brisbois said in a statement.
Representatives for the accuser didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shares in JD.com rose 4.8% on Friday after the attorney’s office released its decision. JD.com’s shares are down about 50% this year.
A representative for JD.com, where Mr. Liu is chief executive as well as founder, said the company was pleased with the decision.
Mr. Liu was arrested in late August in Minneapolis on suspicion of rape, shocking China business watchers.
A Chinese undergraduate studying at the University of Minnesota told police that the CEO had raped her after a group dinner, which he has denied. Police arrested Mr. Liu in the evening on Friday, August 31. He was released the next day and then he returned to China, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Mr. Liu, also known as Richard, was in Minneapolis as part of an educational program aimed at experienced business executives in China and run by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
Prosecutors have been considering whether to bring charges since the Minneapolis Police Department completed its investigation into the allegation in September. Sexual-assault cases can be extremely difficult to prosecute, according to legal experts, often involving opposing he-said, she-said versions of events.
“As is the case in many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in the release. “It became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof.”
The decision not to charge Mr. Liu spares him from potentially lengthy legal proceedings in the U.S. China has outlawed the extradition of its citizens. But his travel to other countries that maintain extradition treaties with the U.S. could have been affected.
The decision also removes questions about Mr. Liu’s leadership of JD.com, which has depositary shares that trade on Nasdaq. JD.com’s bylaws say the board isn’t allowed to hold a formal meeting without Mr. Liu unless he recuses himself.
The woman who accused Mr. Liu of rape was invited to be a student helper for the educational program at the university, according to her lawyer, Wil Florin. As previously reported, The Wall Street Journal has listened to portions of audio recordings of the woman’s Sept. 10 interview with police, one of several conversations she had with authorities following the incident. The Journal has also viewed screen shots of Chinese-language
text messages the woman sent related to the event.
On Thursday, Aug. 30, the woman attended a dinner with Mr. Liu and his friends and associates, the attorney’s office said. Many at the dinner drank heavily, according to a restaurant employee. The woman told police that both she and Mr. Liu were drunk that night, according to the audio recordings reviewed by The Journal.
After dinner, the woman and Mr. Liu were driven to her apartment, the attorney’s office said.
There, she said in the audio recording, Mr. Liu ignored her protests as he tried to pull off her clothes and initiate sex. In the audio recordings, the woman said Mr. Liu raped her, which he has denied. The attorney’s office said Mr. Liu maintained the sex was consensual.
After the encounter, a friend of the woman’s called the police, the attorney’s office said. Officers arrived at the woman’s apartment and questioned both the woman and Mr. Liu.
Police, who were wearing body cameras, said they reviewed recordings of conversations between Mr. Liu and the woman inside her apartment, as well as portions of a conversation they had after the woman asked to speak privately to Mr. Liu, the attorney’s office said.
“The substance of those conversations, along with all of the other evidence including statements from the woman and others, as well as footage from multiple surveillance cameras, do not support criminal charges in this case,” the attorney’s office said on Friday.
Write to Austen Hufford at [email protected]