WASHINGTON (AFP, NYT) - Chinese e-commerce billionaire Liu Qiangdong - also known as Richard Liu - was briefly arrested in the midwestern US city of Minneapolis over allegations of criminal sexual conduct, authorities said.
Records from Hennepin County Jail showed Liu, founder and CEO of Chinese online retail giant JD.com, was arrested over the misconduct allegations late Friday night and released Saturday afternoon.
The Minneapolis Police Department said the investigation remained active and would not confirm details of the arrest or the allegations against the 45-year-old Liu.
"The individual was arrested Friday evening and released Saturday afternoon. He was released pending formal complaint," public information officer John Elder told AFP.
In the state of Minnesota, "criminal sexual conduct" encompasses a broad spectrum of nonconsensual sexual activity.
In a statement posted on Chinese social media network Weibo, JD.com confirmed that Mr Liu had been arrested over what it described as a false allegation during a business trip.
The statement, contradicting US police, added authorities found no evidence of misconduct and released Mr Liu to continue his trip.
The arrest comes shortly after Liu was in the spotlight for another incident involving sexual misconduct. He tried to distance himself from a sexual assault that was said to have taken place after a 2015 party at his penthouse in Australia. A guest at the party, Longwei Xu, was found guilty this July of seven charges, including having sex with his accuser without her consent.
Liu has not been charged with a crime or accused of any wrongdoing in that case. But he tried to get an Australian court to prevent the release of his name in connection with the case by citing potential damage to his marriage and business, court documents show. In July, a judge in Australia rejected his request for a suppression order.
Legal troubles for Liu could darken perceptions overall of JD.com, whose shares trade on the Nasdaq stock market in New York and have a market value of around US$50 billion.
The matter is an another unwelcome bit of publicity for a company that symbolizes the business potential of China's rising middle class. The accusation could also be a test of JD.com's stability, as well as the ability of a Chinese technology company to rebound from the problems of its leaders.
Founded in 1998, the Fortune Global 500 company is China's second-largest e-commerce firm and an aggressive competitor of Alibaba.
The company says it offers a "one stop" shopping experience to over 300 million active customers in China, with same- and next day-delivery as standard.
In June, Google announced it would invest more than half a billion dollars into JD.com as part of a move to expand retail services around the world.
The firms will marry JD's supply chain and logistics experience with Google technology to create "next generation" personalised retail in regions including Southeast Asia, the US and Europe, both companies said in a statement.