Home / Tech / College student files lawsuit against the Chinese billionaire founder of JD.com, after US prosecutors declined to charge him in alleged rape (JD)

College student files lawsuit against the Chinese billionaire founder of JD.com, after US prosecutors declined to charge him in alleged rape (JD)

liu qiangdong mugshot

  • The billionaire founder and CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com was arrested in Minneapolis last August after an accusation of rape.
  • Minnesota authorities released Richard Liu Qiangdong without charge the day after the arrest and declined to press charges in December, citing insufficient evidence.
  • His accuser, 21-year-old Liu Jingyao, revealed her identity for the first time in a civil lawsuit filed against the tech CEO on Tuesday.
  • According to Bloomberg, she claims Liu plied her with alcohol at a networking dinner, assaulted her in a limousine, and attacked her at her apartment.
  • In a statement to Business Insider, Liu’s lawyers called the lawsuit “meritless” and said they will contest it vigorously.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

A University of Minnesota student who claims she was raped by Richard Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder and CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, filed a lawsuit against him on Tuesday.

Liu Jingyao filed the civil suit four months after the local district attorney in Minneapolis declined to launch criminal proceedings against Liu, citing a lack of evidence.

The lawsuit accuses Richard Liu and JD.com of a total of six counts of false imprisonment, civil assault and battery, as well as sexual assault or battery, Reuters reported. It seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

The CEO and student are not related. Liu is a common Chinese surname.

The CEO denies the claims. In a statement to Business Insider, Jill Brisbois, Richard Liu’s personal lawyer, said: “We have not yet reviewed the complaint and are not going to comment on pending litigation, but based on the Hennepin County Attorney’s declination to charge a case against our client and our belief in his innocence, we feel strongly that this suit is without merit and will vigorously defend against it.”

Peter Walsh, the counsel for JD.com, declined to comment on Tuesday’s lawsuit but told Business Insider in a statement that “we will vigorously defend these meritless claims against the company.”

Reports of the lawsuit claim the student was invited to a high-powered networking dinner, where she was plied with alcohol, coerced into Liu’s limousine. It says she was driven home by Liu’s driver, and that Liu raped her in his apartment.

Minneapolis police arrested Liu over the rape accusations in August, and released him the following afternoon. No restrictions were placed on his travel, and he returned to China days later.

Read more: JD.com CEO plunged from 16th to 30th richest man in China after being arrested in the US over a rape accusation

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced last December that it would not press criminal charges against Liu, citing “profound evidentiary problems.” It said the nature of the evidence means it is “highly unlikely” that they could prove any charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Liu, one of China’s richest men, would have faced 30 years in prison if found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct.

Richard Qiangdong Liu

“Defendant Liu … used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape her”

Liu Jingyao claimed in the lawsuit that in August, Richard Liu and more than a dozen Chinese executives plied her with alcohol at a networking dinner hours before she was attacked by the billionaire, Bloomberg reported.

The student felt forced to drink as the executives toasted her, with JD.com’s CEO saying that she would dishonour him if she did not join in, The Associated Press reported.

She was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, and 21 years old at the time, the reports said.

Richard Liu had been in Minneapolis for a residency as part of a business administration program.

The student was invited to the Japanese restaurant dinner by another executive on Richard Liu’s program whom she met at university jogging sessions, Bloomberg reported the lawsuit as saying. The executive did not mention that Richard Liu specifically asked her to join the dinner, the filing said.

University of Minnesota

The student alleged in her filing that a Chinese executive bought 32 bottles of wine with a JD.com corporate card at the dinner, then paid for the meal with the same card, according to Bloomberg.

The lawsuit said Richard Liu then took the student into a limousine, and “began to grope and physically force himself upon the plaintiff,” Bloomberg reported. The reports say he ignored her pleas to stop.

Another woman affiliated with JD.com had been riding in the limousine with them after the dinner, the lawsuit added, though it’s not clear whether and when she left the vehicle.

According to the lawsuit, cited by Bloomberg, when the CEO and the student arrived at her apartment, he took off his clothes and lay on her bed naked. She repeatedly asked him to stop and never consented to any sexual actions, but he ignored the actions and overpowered her, the lawsuit said.

The court document added, according to Bloomberg: “Defendant Liu was physically larger in size and significantly stronger than the plaintiff and used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape her.”

The above description is similar to a report published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune last November that detailed the allegations. Liu denied those allegations at the time, and his lawyer called the story “one-sided.”

Tuesday’s lawsuit is the first time the complainant’s name has been made public.

FILE PHOTO: A sign of China's e-commerce company JD.com is seen at its shop at a mall in Shanghai, China October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

Liu Jingyao added in the lawsuit, according to Bloomberg, that she secretly sent a WeChat message to a friend to say that she had been sexually assaulted, and that the friend called the police.

When officers arrived at the apartment to arrest Liu, the student said she had been raped, and the CEO stared angrily at her and said “what the hell?” in Mandarin, Bloomberg reported.

She also told officers that Richard Liu is wealthy and powerful in China, and that she fears for her and her family’s safety for when she returns to China in the future, the lawsuit said, according to Bloomberg.

The arrest appears on police bodycam footage, the lawsuit said. The footage has not been made public.

The filing names both Liu and JD.com as defendants. According to Reuters, the filing said JD.com is “vicariously liable” for Liu’s actions because they took place “seemingly” during a work function, and that his alleged misconduct took place in front of two other JD.com employees.

Read more: A Chinese tech billionaire has been accused of plying a student with drink and then forcing himself on her during a trip to the US

FILE PHOTO: Richard Liu, CEO and founder of China's e-commerce company JD.com, speaks during an interview with Reuters after delivering goods for customers to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the company, in Beijing, China June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

According to the lawsuit, after the alleged attack the student withdrew from all her classes during the fall 2018 semester to seek professional treatment.

In a Tuesday statement cited by Reuters, Florin Roebig, one of the law firms representing Liu Jingyao, said: “We are proud of the incredible courage our client has shown revealing her name for all the world to see, so that justice may be done.” 

Business Insider has contacted the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for comment on the lawsuit.

richard liu qiangdong zhang zetian

Liu has long fostered a reputation of being a workaholic and a family man.

Reuters cited him as saying last January: “For my parents I want to be a good son, for my wife a good husband, and for my daughter I want to be a good father.”

“I hope that one day when I retire that my workers will all be able to say: ‘He was a good guy.'”

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