The billionaire founder and chief executive of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has been accused in a lawsuit of rape by a college student in the United States.
Richard Liu was accused of sexual assault and battery in a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by a student at the University of Minnesota who is seeking damages of more than $50,000.
The court documents name the alleged victim as Jingyao Liu, who was a 21-year-old undergraduate student when she claims the CEO forced himself on her following a dinner in Minnesota.
Richard Liu, who is married to Chinese celebrity Zhang Zetian, has maintained his innocence since the arrest.
Jill Brisbois, an attorney for the executive, said that “based on … our belief in his innocence, we feel strongly that this suit is without merit and will vigorously defend against it.”
Peter Walsh, a lawyer representing JD.com, which is also named in the suit, said in a statement that he would “vigorously defend these meritless claims against the company.”
The case has drawn huge attention in China, where Richard Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, is well known for building JD.com (JD) into an online retail giant worth about $43 billion.
He was visiting the University of Minnesota as part of a doctoral business administration program that caters to high-level executives from China.
The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff was assaulted by Richard Liu after both attended a dinner that was billed as an event to honor student volunteers.
According to the complaint, Richard Liu pressured the plaintiff to drink alcohol during the meal, which was paid for with a JD.com corporate credit card. While the Chinese student requested help securing transportation home via a ride service, she was instead directed to a limo with the CEO, according to the complaint.
The suit states that Richard Liu groped the woman during the car ride and tried to remove her clothes despite her repeatedly asking him to stop. He later assaulted the woman in her apartment, according to the complaint.
The woman contacted a friend following the incident and the police were called.
According to the complaint, the woman told police that she had been raped and was “concerned both for her immediate safety and about what might happen to her in the future when she is legally required to return to China.”
In December, Minnesota authorities said they would not file sexual assault charges against Richard Liu because of “profound evidentiary problems” that would have made it tough to build a criminal case.
“As is the case in many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in December. “It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual.”
The CEO said at the time that the prosecutors’ decision “proves I broke no law.”
Dave Alsup contributed to this report.