JD.com’s billionaire CEO released after U.S. arrest

BEIJING (Reuters) – The billionaire founder and chief executive of Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com Inc (JD.O), Richard Liu, was arrested in the U.S. state of Minnesota on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct and later released after what the company said was a false accusation.

FILE PHOTO: JD.com founder Richard Liu attends a business forum in Hong Kong, China June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

JD.com, backed by Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, and China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), said in a statement on Sunday that Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, was 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 company said.

FILE PHOTO: Richard Liu, founder and chief executive officer of e-commerce company JD.com, leaves the Great Hall of the People after the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

“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,” it said.

The company did not immediately provide further details, and Liu could not immediately be reached by Reuters.

JD.com is one of China’s tech heavyweights, competing with larger rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N). Liu, 45, is well known in China and has a net worth of $ 7.9 billion, according to Forbes.

He was arrested shortly before midnight local time on Friday and was released just after 4 p.m. on Saturday, according to the website of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. It showed Liu was “released pending complaint.”

Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said that an investigation was ongoing and declined to provide details of the arrest.

“We don’t know if there will be charges or not because we haven’t concluded an investigation,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

The University of Minnesota said Liu was a student in its doctor of business administration program, which primarily takes place in Beijing in partnership with Tsinghua University aimed at full-time executives. The students were in the Twin Cities last week as part of their training.

University spokeswoman Emma Bauer in a statement declined to comment further and referred questions to the Minneapolis Police Department.

Reporting by Cate Cadell in BEIJING and Kane Wu in HONG KONG; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in NEW YORK; Writing by Tony Munroe and Miyoung Kim; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Jane Merriman and Lisa Shumaker

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