The arrest of Chinese billionaire Liu Qiangdong last week in the U.S. on suspicion of rape followed a group dinner attended by Mr. Liu and the woman who alleges the assault, according to a person familiar with the woman’s account.
Mr. Liu and the woman, a Chinese student attending the University of Minnesota, sat at the same table Thursday at Origami, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis, the person said.
Mr. Liu, the 45-year-old chief executive of Chinese e-commerce company JD.com Inc., JD was arrested on suspicion of a rape that allegedly occurred at 1 a.m. Friday, according to Minneapolis police records. He was released without bail the next day and has returned to Beijing, where JD.com is based.
On Wednesday, amid the allegations, JD.com’s American depositary shares fell 11%, their biggest one-day decline since the company went public in 2014.
Mr. Liu’s attorney said his client didn’t commit any wrongdoing.
“He is not going to be charged ever, ever. Amen!” said Earl Gray, a Minnesota-based criminal-defense attorney representing Mr. Liu.
Mr. Gray didn’t respond when asked whether Mr. Liu and his accuser had dined and drunk together hours before the alleged assault. JD.com didn’t respond to a request for comment on the dinner.
No charges have been filed against Mr. Liu, also known as Richard Liu.
After his arrest late Friday, he was released on Saturday when Minneapolis police determined they wouldn’t be able to complete their initial investigation by Tuesday at 11 a.m. Under Minnesota law, police can detain individuals for up to 36 hours before filing charges. Sundays and holidays don’t count, giving police extra time over the Labor Day weekend. Officers determined that still wasn’t enough, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said on Wednesday.
“To do this properly, this is an extensive investigation. When we have the opportunity, we want to ensure that we leave no stone unturned,” Mr. Elder said. “We are very confident that as it comes time for us to reconnect to him in this investigation we will be able to do it.”
Mr. Liu was in the city for a weeklong residency at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management for its China business administration doctoral program, which is tailored to top executives and operated in a partnership with Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University.
A group of about 20 people drank and dined at the restaurant Thursday night, say people who were present. The people couldn’t say whether Mr. Liu was among them.
The group brought their own bottles of wine and also spent about $1,900 on food, sake and other drinks, according to one of the people. One male attendee, dressed in sweat clothes, was called “boss” by several members of the group. Before the evening gathering ended, at about 9 p.m., several men put their heads down on the table, one of the people said.
Public records show Mr. Liu was booked into the local Hennepin County Jail at 11:32 p.m. Friday, nearly 24 hours after the alleged assault. Police declined to discuss the sequence of events or other aspects of the case.
Photos obtained by The Wall Street Journal show Mr. Liu in handcuffs at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson Global Institute, steps away from the Carlson School’s executive center, where program participants spend their days. He was released about 16 hours later, at 4:05 p.m. on Saturday.
The investigation remains active, police said, but Mr. Liu’s attorneys said his release suggests there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Authorities haven’t commented on the reason for the release.
Given the seriousness of the allegation, the release is “very, very strange,” said David Levine, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who is knowledgeable about criminal law.
“The risk of flight is enormous,” Mr. Levine said. “It’s a person with a lot of assets. Even bail would have meant nothing because he could afford any amount of bail.”
China and the U.S. don’t have an extradition treaty. If authorities charge Mr. Liu and issue an arrest warrant, the Chinese government could refuse to hand him over, Mr. Levine said. In that case, he said, the Hennepin County Attorney in Minneapolis could ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to post a “red notice” on Interpol, which acts as a request to member nations to locate and provisionally arrest an individual. China and the U.S. are both members of Interpol.
Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, said if it becomes necessary the office would get a warrant, adding that the office has someone “who deals with extradition.”