Sexual assault charges dropped against e-commerce giant’s CEO
Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder and CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD, will not face sexual assault charges in the United States, as prosecutors said they could not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Industry insiders say Liu’s case in the US has a limited impact on the overall performance of the company in the long run but that JD is now facing tougher competition from rivals such as Alibaba. The company’s shares lost about 60 percent of their value since early this year as it grappled with the accusations against Liu.
Chen Tao, an analyst at the Beijing-based consultancy Analysys, said as consumers pay more attention to the quality and value of products sold on the e-commerce platform, Liu’s incident will not have a direct influence on the daily operation of the company.
“However, JD’s reach in first and second-tier cities is high, or close to saturation. It should seek new growth engines and pour more resources into smaller cities and rural areas,” Chen said.
Hong Tao, an analyst from GF Securities said the tech heavyweight has faced troubles. JD’s advanced logistics system, which is its core strength, has been overtaken by Alibaba’s Cainiao Logistics, and the shortage of commodity categories at its online marketplace has also affected the rapid growth of JD’s businesses, Hong said.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, the prosecutorial office handling the case, determined after an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department’s sex crimes unit and a review by four senior sexual assault prosecutors that evidentiary problems would have made it highly unlikely that criminal charges against Liu could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a statement, County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Friday that as prosecutors reviewed surveillance video, text messages, police body camera video and witness statements, “It became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof and, therefore, we could not bring charges.”
JD said on Saturday it was pleased to see this decision.
Liu issued a statement on his Weibo social media account after the Minneapolis authorities announced they would not file charges against him.
“This proves I broke no law, however, my interactions with the woman have hurt my family greatly, especially my wife. I feel deep regret and remorse and hope she can accept my sincere apology,” Liu said.
“I will continue to try in every possible way to repair the impact on my family and fulfill my responsibility as a husband.” Liu added. He did not respond to comments on the internet while the investigation was ongoing to avoid interfering with police and prosecutors.
JD has reported its slowest quarterly revenue growth, with third quarter net revenue reaching 104.8 billion yuan ($15.2 billion), a 25.1 percent year-on-year increase. Analysts polled by financial data and analytics firm FactSet had estimated that JD would report revenue of 106.09 billion yuan in the third quarter.
Liu was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct on Aug 31 and later released without charge or bail. He returned to China on Sept 3.