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JD.com CEO released after arrest over sexual misconduct allegations

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Legal troubles for Mr Liu could darken perceptions overall of JD.com, whose shares trade on Nasdaq in New York.

Washington

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 that Mr Liu, founder and CEO of Chinese online retail giant JD.com, was arrested over the misconduct allegations last Friday night and released on 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 Mr Liu.

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"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 non-consensual 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 that authorities found no evidence of misconduct and released Mr Liu to continue his trip. JD.com will take legal action against the publishing of untrue reports or rumours, the company said in the statement.

The arrest comes shortly after Mr 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.

Mr 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 Mr 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 symbolises 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. AFP, NYTIMES