A University of Minnesota student who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Chinese billionaire Richard Liu said he raped her after encouraging her to drink too much.
The lawsuit, which names Liu and his company, JD.com, as defendants, accuses Liu of arranging to have the woman, then a 21-year-old undergraduate at the Carlson School of Management, lured to a dinner in her honor at an Uptown restaurant. There, he encouraged her to drink to excess, the lawsuit said, then had her driven back to her apartment, where he raped her.
The company paid the bill for the dinner and Liu’s staff helped facilitate the assault, the suit alleges. The woman is named in the lawsuit, but the Star Tribune does not identify alleged sexual assault victims without their permission.
Liu’s attorney, Jill Brisbois, declined to comment on pending litigation but said, “We feel strongly that this suit is without merit and will vigorously defend against it.”
The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, said the woman suffered bodily injury and mental anguish, causing her to drop out of the university fall semester.
Liu is listed by Forbes magazine as the 272nd richest person in the world, the suit noted, and JD.com, which operates a business in China similar to Amazon, is publicly traded in the United States.
Liu is listed by both his Americanized name, Richard Liu, and by his Chinese name, Liu Qiangdong.
Liu was arrested on Aug. 31 after the student made the allegations. Four months later, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined to charge Liu with rape, saying it could not be assured it could convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. But the standard in a civil case, were it to go to a jury, is the “preponderance of evidence,” making it more likely the woman would prevail, according to Joseph Daly, an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.
The woman’s attorney is seeking more than $50,000, a standard legal figure in lawsuits. Daly said 90% of civil suits settle and predicted this suit will settle also, because neither Liu nor his company will want the details made public in a trial.
Most of the allegations the woman made in the suit were previously reported in the Star Tribune and elsewhere. However it includes a few new details.
It alleges that she sat next to Liu at Origami in Uptown, where he “repeatedly coerced” her to drink alcohol. It says Liu told her that if she refused to drink, she would “dishonor” him and “lose face” in front of the other business executives at the table.
Liu was enrolled in a program offering a doctorate in business for wealthy executives from China, partnering with Tsinghua University in China.
The university’s deputy associate dean, Tony Haitao Cui, invited the student to participate as a volunteer in late August, when the executives were at the university. Another executive invited her to the Origami dinner. It was a “business networking dinner” organized by Liu and JD.com, the suit says, paid for with a corporate credit card.
The suit says the student got drunk and thought she’d be taken home by a ride service but was instead directed to a limo Liu or his company hired at a cost of $18,000 for the week.
In the limo, she alleges he sexually groped her, despite her pleas to stop. The limo stopped at a mansion rented by the Chinese executives. The two got out, but she declined to go in and Liu “ultimately grabbed [her] by the arm and angrily overpowered her and pushed her back into the second row of the limousine.” While Liu resumed groping her, one of Liu’s assistants, who was sitting in the front seat next to the chauffeur, grabbed the rearview mirror and turned it around so the chauffeur couldn’t see what was happening.
They drove to her apartment building, where she said he came into the apartment with her, removed his clothing and raped her.
Afterward, the student texted a friend she’d been raped. He called police, who found Liu on the bed “nude from the waist down, wearing only a T-shirt,” the suit said. Liu was questioned and released, but arrested later that day. Liu’s lawyers say the sex was consensual.
Her attorney, Wil Florin, declined to comment on Tuesday. In an accompanying news release, the law firm said the County Attorney’s Office would be open to revisiting the decision not to prosecute Liu if it receives “compelling additional information.”
In a brief interview, Chuck Laszewski, a county attorney spokesman, said, “We are always open to looking at any case we decline when new substantial information comes in.”