Minnesota prosecutors will not file sexual assault charges against Richard Liu, the billionaire CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com.
Liu, 45, had been arrested in Minnesota in late August on suspicion of rape. He was let go without being charged and without having to pay bail. He returned to China soon after his release.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement Friday that the months-long investigation by police and prosecutors found “profound evidentiary problems” that would have made it hard to build a criminal case.
“As is the case in many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation,” Freeman said. “It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual.”
Freeman said that as prosecutors reviewed surveillance video, text messages, police body camera video and witness statements, they realized they could not bring charges. The investigation was triggered when a college student at the University of Minnesota called police on August 31 and said Liu had raped her at her off-campus apartment.
“Because we do not want to re-victimize the young woman, we will not be going into detail,” Freeman added.
The move eases pressure on JD.com, a $30 billion company Liu started 20 years ago and a major player in China’s tech industry. Shares of the Nasdaq-listed firm rose as much as 9% on Friday after the prosecutors made their decision.
JD.com said Friday that the company is “pleased to see this decision.”
“This confirms our strong belief from the very beginning that my client is innocent,” Jill Brisbois, Liu’s attorney, said in a statement. “Mr. Liu was arrested based on a false claim, and after a thorough investigation, with which he fully cooperated, the declination of charges vindicates him.”
The attorney representing the young woman, Wil Florin, criticized the prosecutors’ handling of the case. Though his client had several interviews with police, Florin said she never met or spoke with anyone at the county attorney’s office.
“If anyone cares to know why victims of sexual assault are hesitant and fearful to come forward to authorities seeking justice for what has been done to them look no further than the manner in which this decision was handled by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office,” he said in a statement.
Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, was in Minneapolis in August because he was enrolled in a doctorate program in business administration at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
His accuser, a young Chinese woman, was 21 at the time of the alleged rape, Florin previously told CNN Business. He’s described her as an “accomplished pianist” from a wealthy Chinese family.
Had Minnesota prosecutors decided to bring a case against Liu, it would have set up a messy international legal fight. China does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, which would have made it difficult for authorities to bring Liu to Minnesota to stand trial.