Richard Liu, the founder and chairman of China’s multi-billion dollar company, JD.com, has been arrested in Minnesota over allegations of criminal sexual misconduct, according to the New York Times.
Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, was arrested late on Friday night before being released a day later. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department said that Liu had been released pending “a formal complaint,” claiming that the police could have kept him in custody until Tuesday, but didn’t see the need. But the police nonetheless maintained that the investigation is ongoing without further commenting on the exact nature of the accusations.
Liu’s company posted a statement on the Chinese social media site Weibo, saying that its founder had been falsely accused.
“During a business trip to the United States, Mr. Liu was questioned by police in Minnesota in relation to an unsubstantiated accusation. The local police quickly determined there was no substance to the claim against Mr. Liu, and he was subsequently able to resume his business activities as originally planned.”
Born to a rural family in China, Richard Liu went on to found JD.com, which, along with its counterpart Alibaba, is the country’s biggest online retailer with more than 300 million customers. High-end companies like Nike and Prada sell their wares to China’s burgeoning middle class through JD.com, whose market value is estimated at a staggering $50 billion.
JD.com is a juggernaut in China’s technological scene, and in China, the personal lives of a company’s handful of executives are closely intertwined with the fortunes of the company. Liu’s company would have a lot to lose financially if the sexual assault allegations against him are of a credible nature. As the New York Times reports, Chinese founders control their companies tightly, and all matters large and small are ultimately dependent on them. Dark or suspicious perceptions of the company’s owner could hurt JD’s chances in the long run.
The sexual assault allegations against Liu come shortly after he was in the news because of another incident involving sexual assault. In 2015, Longwei Xu, who was invited to a party at Liu’s penthouse in Australia, was accused of raping a woman and was convicted of seven charges in July of this year. Although Liu was never accused of any wrongdoing in the incident, he unsuccessfully tried to distance himself from the entire saga, requesting an Australian court not to release his name because of the impact it would have on his marriage and fortunes. But a judge in Australia denied his request for a suppression order, and now less than two months later, Richard Liu has found himself embroiled in another incident over alleged sexual misconduct.