Four months after local prosecutors decided not to press charges, a Chinese student has filed a lawsuit against JD.com founder and chief executive Richard Liu, alleging the billionaire businessman raped her in Minnesota back in August.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Hennepin County on Tuesday, is seeking damages of more than $50,000. It identifies the student as Jingyao Liu (not related to Richard Liu), an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota.
JD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Peter Walsh, an attorney for JD.com at Hogan Lovells, says the company is “not in position to comment at this time” but “will vigorously defend these meritless claims against the company.”
Liu has maintained his innocence through his lawyers throughout the investigation. The executive said on social media in December that he had “broken no laws” but felt “extreme self-admonishment and regret” for the pain that his behavior “on that day” brought to his family and wife, who is an internet celebrity known as Sister Milk Tea.
In December, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said he was not charging Liu because “there were profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” He further emphasized his decision “had nothing to do with Liu’s status as a wealthy, foreign businessman.”
Liu’s case has drawn widespread interest in China where the tale of Liu’s rags-to-riches has inspired many. If charged and convicted, Liu could face up to 30 years in prison.
JD’s stock immediately tumbled after the student first accused Liu in August over concerns that the case will hamper his ability to run the company, which is the arch-rival to Jack Ma’s Alibaba and faces growing competition from e-commerce upstart Pinduoduo.
The company’s shares have slowly crawled back since December after the Hennepin County Attorney decided not to charge the founder. Nonetheless, JD is coping with sagging morale as large-scale layoffs hit executives and a new pay scheme threatens to depress income among its armies of couriers.
Updated with JD.com’s statement