BEIJING — A Chinese e-commerce giant says its billionaire founder, Liu Qiangdong, has returned to China after his arrest in the U.S. on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct.
Zhang Shuhan, a JD.com official, said Monday by phone that “Liu Qiangdong has been released without charges and he is now back in China.”
Also known as Richard Liu, the founder of the Beijing-based e-commerce site was arrested in Minneapolis late Friday on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct, according to Hennepin County Jail records.
Liu, 45, was released Saturday afternoon pending possible criminal charges. The jail records don’t provide details of the alleged incident.
Liu’s attorneys in Minneapolis, Earl Gray and Joseph Friedberg, told the Wall Street Journal that they don’t have specific knowledge of the complaint against Liu, but said their client is innocent. Gray said he and Friedberg would represent Liu if charges are filed, but called that prospect “a very remote possibility.”
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said Sunday that he couldn’t provide any details because the investigation is considered active. He declined to say where in Minneapolis Liu was arrested or what Liu was accused of doing.
Minnesota law defines five degrees of criminal sexual misconduct, ranging from a gross misdemeanor to felonies, covering a broad array of conduct ranging from nonconsensual touching to violent assaults with injuries. The jail records for Liu don’t indicate a degree.
A spokeswoman for the University of Minnesota said Liu, who is enrolled as a student with the Carlson School of Management’s doctor of business administration China program, was in Minneapolis to attend a weeklong residency, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
China’s foreign ministry said Monday that the Chinese Consulate in Chicago is looking into the circumstances surrounding Liu’s arrest.
Nasdaq-listed JD.com said in a statement Sunday that Liu was falsely accused while in the U.S. on a business trip, and that police investigators found no misconduct and he would continue his journey as planned. The $45 billion company, the main rival to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said it would take legal action against “false reporting or rumors.”
Liu recently tried to distance himself from sexual assault allegations against a guest at a 2015 party at his penthouse in Australia. Liu was not charged or accused of wrongdoing, but Australian media reported he tried unsuccessfully to get a court to prevent the release of his name in that case. The guest was convicted.
JD.com is 10 percent owned by Walmart, while Chinese internet firm Tencent owns 18 percent. Liu, who is worth an estimated $7.3 billion, owns 16 percent of the company and has vast control over major business decisions.