MINNEAPOLIS / NEW YORK (Reuters) – With the Chinese billionaire Richard Liu at her flat in Minneapolis, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student sent a WeChat message to a friend in the middle of the night. She wrote that Liu forced her to have sex with him.
JD.com founder Richard Liu, also known as Qiang Dong Liu, is portrayed in this undated hand-out photograph published by Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, obtained by Reuters on September 23, 2018. Hennepin County Sheriff's Office / Handout via REUTERS
"I was not prepared," she wrote in Chinese about the messaging application on August 2nd. "Tomorrow I will think of a way to escape," she wrote, begging the friend not to call the police.
"He will suppress it," she wrote, referring to Liu. "You underestimate his strength."
This WeChat exchange and another reviewed by Reuters have not been reported before. One of the woman's lawyers, Wil Florin, verified whether the text messages came from her.
Liu, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com Inc., was arrested later in the day on suspicion of rape, according to a police report. He was released without being accused and did not deny any wrongdoing by a lawyer. He has since returned to China and has promised to cooperate with the Minneapolis police.
Jill Brisbois, a lawyer for Liu, said that he maintains his innocence and fully cooperated in the investigation.
"These accusations are not consistent with evidence that we hope will be made public once the case is closed," Brisbois wrote in an e-mail reply to detailed questions from Reuters.
Loretta Chao, a spokesperson for JD.com, said that when more information becomes available, "it will become clear that the information in this note does not tell the whole story." She responded to detailed questions from Reuters in which the accusations were set out in the WeChat messages of the woman and other findings.
Florin Roebig and Hang & Associates, the law firms representing the woman, said in an e-mail that their client had "fully cooperated" with the police and was also willing to assist prosecutors. Florin, asked if his client was planning a lawsuit against Liu, said: "Our legal intentions regarding Mr. Liu and others will be announced at the right time."
Representatives for both Liu and the student have rejected Reuters requests to interview their clients.
The police have transferred the findings of its initial investigation into the matter to local prosecutors for a decision to file charges against Liu. There is no deadline for taking that decision, according to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
The Minneapolis police and provincial lawyer refused to comment on detailed questions from Reuters.
Reuters has not been able to identify the identity of the woman who has not been made public. But her WeChat messages to two friends and interviews with half a dozen people with knowledge of the events that unfold over a period of two days provide new information on the interactions between Liu and the woman, a student from China who visits the university .
The case has sharp criticism worldwide and in China, where the tycoon, also known as Liu Qiangdong, is being celebrated for its story from rags to wealth. Liu, 45, is married to Zhang Zetian, described by Chinese media as 24-year-old, who has become a celebrity in China and promotes JD.com.
As the country's second largest e-commerce website after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the company has attracted investors such as Walmart Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Tencent Holdings in China.
Liu has almost 80 percent of the voting rights in JD.com. The shares in the company have fallen about 15 percent since Liu & # 39; s arrest and have fallen about 36 percent during the year.
"IT WAS A TRIP"
Liu was brief in Minneapolis to join with the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and China's elite Tsinghua University, along with the University of Minnesota, to attend a company promotion program. The doctoral program is "aimed at executives at a high level" from China.
Liu threw a dinner on August 30 for about two dozen people, including about 20 men, at Origami Uptown, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis where wine, sake and beer flowed freely, according to restaurant staff and video's of closed circuits reviewed by Reuters.
Liu, who, according to Forbes, is worth about $ 6.7 billion, ordered sashimi by pointing his finger at the first item on the menu and swiping it all the way down to indicate he wanted it all, said a restaurant employee. The group brought at least one wine box from a liquor store outside to drink together with dinner, according to the restaurant staff.
Secure video images from the restaurant show that the group has roasted each other at night.
Later the woman told a second friend in one of the reports that she felt pressured to drink that evening.
"It was a trap," she wrote, adding later, "I was really drunk."
The party ended around 8:30 PM. The tab: $ 2,200, the receipt is shown. A drunken guest was helped out of the restaurant by three of his employees, according to the video images of the restaurant security.
Liu and the woman then went to a house in Minneapolis, according to a person familiar with the case. Another source said that the house was rented by one of Liu's classmates in the academic program to give the class a place to network, smoke, drink whiskey and get Chinese food every night.
But they did not go inside. Liu and the student were seen outside the house before Liu pulled her into his rental car, a person with knowledge of the incident said.
In the WeChat message to one of her friends who was sent hours later, the student said Liu "started to touch me in the car".
"Then I did not beg him … but he did not listen," she wrote.
They came back to her apartment, according to sources of knowledge.
Reuters could not determine what happened in the next two hours. According to the police report, the alleged rape took place around 1 a.m.
The woman then reached a University of Minnesota study fellow who informed the police, according to two sources and her WeChat messages.
The Minneapolis police came to her apartment early in the morning while Liu was there, but did not make any arrests, another source who was familiar with the situation said. Reuters could not exactly determine what was happening during the police visit, but the source said the woman refused to file indictments in Liu's presence.
In a WeChat message with one of her friends, she asked her friend why the billionaire would be interested in "an ordinary girl" like her.
"If it were me, I could commit suicide immediately," she wrote. "But I'm afraid my parents will suffer."
On Friday morning she wrote to one of her two friends that she had told several people what had happened, including the police, a few friends and at least one teacher. She wrote that she would keep her sheets. "Evidence can not be thrown away," she wrote.
On Friday afternoon, the student went to a hospital to undergo a forensic test for sexual violence, the source said.
Police officers arrived at an office at the University of Minnesota shortly after an emergency call around 9 o'clock in the evening. The student was present at the office, next to school representatives, and accused Liu of rape, the source said.
Representatives for the University of Minnesota refused to comment on detailed questions from Reuters.
Liu came to the university office around 11 pm. while the police were there, according to the person who was familiar with the case. While an officer handcuffed him, Liu did not show any emotion. "I need an interpreter," he said, according to the source.
Liu was released about 17 hours later. The Minneapolis police have previously said that they can only hold a person for free for 36 hours.
Within days, Liu was back in China, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.
"Liu has started working in Beijing again and he will continue to lead the company There is no interruption in the daily business of JD.com," said Loretta Chao, the spokesperson for JD.com, to Reuters.
Additional reporting by Blake Morrison and Christine Chan in New York, Adam Jourdan and Engen Tham in Shanghai, and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Edited by Paritosh Bansal and Edward Tobin