Chinese Billionaire Richard Liu Settles US Rape Charge, 2 Days Before Civil Trial

Chinese billionaire and founder Richard Liu agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former University of Minnesota student who alleged he sexually assaulted her in her Minneapolis apartment after a dinner and dinner. drinking with wealthy Chinese executives in 2018, lawyers for both sides announced late Saturday.

A settlement amount has not been disclosed.

Richard Liu, who this year stepped down as CEO of Beijing-based e-commerce company amid increased government surveillance of China’s tech industry, has denied raping the wife, Jingyao Liu, and prosecutors have never filed a criminal charge. submitted. A joint statement by lawyers from both sides called the meeting “a misunderstanding”.

“The incident between Ms. Jingyao Liu and Mr. Richard Liu in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that has attracted much public attention and caused great distress to the parties and their families,” the joint statement said. “Today, the parties have agreed to set aside their differences and settle their legal dispute in order to avoid further pain and suffering caused by the lawsuit.”

The settlement was announced just two days before the civil trial was set to begin Monday in a Minneapolis courtroom. On Friday, a jury of seven men and five women was selected to hear the case.

A celebrity in China, Richard Liu is part of a generation of entrepreneurs who have created the country’s internet, e-commerce, mobile telephony and other technology industries since the late 1990s. Forbes estimated his net worth at $10.9 billion on Saturday.

Student was 21 at the time of alleged assault

Jingyao Liu claims the attack happened in 2018 while Richard Liu was in Minneapolis for a week-long stay at the University of Minnesota’s China Doctor of Business Administration program targeting high-level executives in China.

The woman, a Chinese citizen, was in college on a student visa and volunteered in the program at the time. The Associated Press generally does not name people who claim to have been sexually assaulted, but Jingyao Liu has agreed to be identified publicly.

She was 21 and Richard Liu was in her mid-40s at the time, the lawsuit said. They are not related.

Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, was arrested in August 2018 on suspicion of rape, but prosecutors said the case had “serious evidence problems” and declined to file criminal charges.

Jingyao Liu sued Richard Liu and in 2019 for assault and assault, along with false imprisonment.

Case widely published in China

The case attracted a lot of attention at a time when the #MeToo movement was gaining popularity in China. Richard Liu’s supporters and opponents conducted aggressive public relations campaigns on Chinese social media; censors shut down a number of accounts supporting Jingyao Liu for “breaking rules.”

Jingyao Liu said in her lawsuit that she should withdraw from classes in the fall of 2018 and seek help and treatment. Her lawyer said she has since graduated but has post-traumatic stress disorder. She sought both damages and punitive damages from Richard Liu.

Her lawsuit said she demanded more than $50,000, a standard amount that must be listed in Minnesota if a plaintiff plans to demand a larger amount. She was expected to ask a jury to award much more.

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

Forced to drink drinks, the suit claimed

She felt compelled to drink as the powerful men toasted her, and Richard Liu said she would dishonor him if she didn’t participate, her lawsuit claimed.

According to the text messages reviewed by The Associated Press and Jingyao Liu’s interviews with police, she said Richard Liu pulled her into a limousine after dinner and groped her despite her protests. She said he raped her in her apartment. At one point, she texted a friend, “I begged him not to do that. But he didn’t listen.”

Her friend alerted the police, who went to her apartment. Jingyao Liu told an officer, “I was raped, but not that kind of rape,” the police said. When asked for an explanation, she changed the subject, saying that Richard Liu was famous and scared. She told the officer that the sex was “spontaneous” and that she didn’t want the police to interfere.

Police said they released Richard Liu because “it was unclear whether a crime had actually taken place”. In a later interview with an investigator, Richard Liu said the sex was consensual and the woman “really enjoyed the whole process.”

Jingyao Liu told a police sergeant she wanted to talk to Richard Liu’s lawyer and threatened to go to the media if she didn’t, police said. Richard Liu’s former lawyer recorded the phone call, in which Jingyao Liu said she didn’t want the case to be in the paper and “I just need payment money and I apologize and that’s all.”

A recording of the telephone conversation would be played as evidence during the trial. Surveillance videos of the restaurant, the restaurant’s exterior and the halls of the woman’s apartment complex would also be played to jurors.

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