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Chinese billionaire Liu Qiangdong settles U.S. rape charges

Amy Fleetty
Associated Press

In 2018, Liu Qiangdong at the World Economic Forum (picture from the World Economic Forum)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chinese billionaire and JD.com founder Liu Qiangdong has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a former University of Minnesota student who claims he dined and drank with wealthy Chinese executives in 2018 She was later raped in her Minneapolis apartment, lawyers for both parties announced late Saturday, October 1.

The settlement amount was not disclosed.

Liu Qiangdong, who stepped down as chief executive of Beijing-based e-commerce company JD.com this year, has denied raping the woman, Liu Jingyao, as the government tightens scrutiny of China’s tech industry, and prosecutors have never brought criminal charges. A joint statement from lawyers for both sides called the encounter “a misunderstanding.”

“The misunderstanding between Ms. Liu Jingyao and Mr. Liu Qiangdong in Minnesota in 2018 attracted widespread public attention and caused profound pain to the parties and their families,” the joint statement said. “Today, both parties agreed to put aside their differences and resolve them. legal disputes so that the lawsuit does not cause further pain and suffering.”

The settlement was announced two days before the civil trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 2 in a Minneapolis courtroom. A jury of seven men and five women was selected to hear the case.

Liu Qiangdong is a celebrity in China, part of a generation of entrepreneurs who have created China’s internet, e-commerce, mobile and other tech industries since the late 1990s. Forbes estimates his wealth at $10.9 billion.

Jingyao Liu alleges that the attack took place in 2018, when Richard Liu was in Minneapolis for a one-week internship at the University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Business Administration China program, which targets top executives in China.

Liu Jingyao, a Chinese national who was studying at the university on a student visa, was a volunteer for the project at the time. The Associated Press generally does not name sexual assault accusers, but Liu Jingyao has agreed to be identified.

According to the lawsuit, Liu Jingyao was 21 years old at the time, and Liu Qiangdong was in his 40s. They are not related.

Liu Qiangdong, also known as Liu Qiangdong, was arrested in August 2018 on suspicion of felony rape, but prosecutors said the case had “serious evidentiary problems” and refused to bring criminal charges.

Liu Jingyao sued Liu Qiangdong and JD.com in 2019, alleging sexual assault and battery, as well as false imprisonment.

The case has drawn widespread attention at a time when the #MeToo movement is gaining traction in China. Supporters and opponents of Liu Qiangdong have launched an aggressive PR campaign on Chinese social media. The censors shut down some accounts that supported Liu Jingyao’s “violations.”

Liu Jingyao said in her complaint that she had to drop out of school in the fall of 2018 to seek psychological counseling and treatment. Her lawyer said she had graduated but suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Richard Liu.

Her lawsuit says she is seeking more than $50,000, a standard figure that plaintiffs must list in Minnesota if they intend to seek a larger amount. She is expected to ask the jury to verdict more.

On the night of the alleged attack, Richard Liu and other executives went to a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis, and one of the men invited Jingyao Liu at Richard Liu’s request, the lawsuit said.

Her lawsuit said she felt compelled to drink when powerful people toasted her, and Liu Qiangdong said she would humiliate him if she didn’t join.

After dinner, Liu Qiangdong, despite her protests, pulled her into a limousine and groped her, according to text messages seen by The Associated Press and interviews with police by Liu Jingyao. She said he raped her in her apartment. At one point, she texted a friend: “I begged him not to. But he wouldn’t listen.”

Her friend notified the police, who went to her apartment. According to the police, Liu Jingyao told a police officer, “I was raped, but not that kind of rape.” When asked to explain, she changed the subject, saying that Liu Qiangdong was famous and she was scared. She told officers the sex was “spontaneous” and she didn’t want the police involved.

Police said they released Richard Liu because “it is not clear whether a crime actually occurred.” In a subsequent interview with investigators, Richard Liu said the sex was consensual and the woman “enjoyed the whole process.” .

According to police, Liu Jingyao told an officer she wanted to talk to Liu Qiangdong’s lawyer and threatened to go to the media if she didn’t. Liu Qiangdong’s former lawyer recorded the phone call, and Liu Jingyao said she didn’t want the case to appear in the newspaper, “I just need to pay and apologize, that’s all.”

A recording of the phone call is expected to be played as trial evidence. Surveillance video from the restaurant, the outside of the restaurant and the lobby of the women’s apartment building is also expected to be shown to jurors.

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