Minnesota prosecutors said Friday that Chinese billionaire Richard Liu will not face charges after a woman accused him of rape while he was attending a University business program in August. Liu's attorneys have maintained that he was innocent.
Liu, founder of the Beijing-based e-commerce site JD.com, was arrested Aug. 31 on suspicion of felony rape and released within hours. He returned to China and has continued to lead the company since his arrest.
Prosecutors said that "profound evidentiary problems" would have made it "highly unlikely" that any charge could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. JD.com has said Liu was falsely accused.
Jill Brisbois, an attorney for Richard Liu, released this statement which was provided to FOX Business.
We welcome the decision made by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office that no charges will be filed against Mr. Liu. This confirms our strong belief from the very beginning that my client is innocent. 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. Mr. Liu is grateful for the hard work of law enforcement to resolve this matter.
Even though the prosecutor determined no criminal charges were warranted, Mr. Liu’s reputation has been damaged like anyone falsely accused of a crime. It was unfortunate that a great deal of unsubstantiated and misleading information was disseminated by certain sources. Meanwhile, we have refrained from commenting on the case out of respect for the judicial process while we waited for the prosecutor’s final decision. We hope the determination today, and the evidence that will be disclosed by police investigators, will fully dispel the misinformation and speculation that has been widely circulated.
In a statement, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that as prosecutors reviewed surveillance video, text messages, police body camera video and witness statements, "it became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof and, therefore, we could not bring charges."
Liu was in Minneapolis for a weeklong residency as part of the University of Minnesota's doctor of business administration China program. The four-year program in the university's management school is geared toward high-level executives in China and is a partnership with Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
On the night of the alleged attack, Liu and other executives went to Origami, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis. The alleged victim, a Chinese citizen who is studying at the University of Minnesota on a student visa, went to the dinner as a volunteer and, her attorney Wil Florin said, felt coerced to drink as the powerful men toasted her.
Text messages reviewed by The Associated Press and portions of the woman's interviews with police show the woman claims Liu dragged her into a vehicle and made advances, despite her protests. The woman texted a friend: "I begged him don't. But he didn't listen." She said he raped her at her apartment. The alleged victim has not been publicly identified. She is still enrolled at the university, Florin said.
Liu had 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.
Liu, known in Chinese as Liu Qiangdong, is a prominent member of the Chinese tech elite, with a fortune of $7.5 billion. He is part of a generation of entrepreneurs who have created China's internet, e-commerce, mobile phone and other technology industries since the late 1990s. The son of peasants, Liu built a Beijing electronics shop into JD.com, China's biggest online direct retailer, selling everything from clothes to toys to fresh vegetables.
Amy Forliti and Jeff Baenen of The Associated Press contributed to this report.