JD.com (JD) - Get Report shares were marked sharply lower Wednesday amid reports that CEO Richard Liu, who was arrested and released last week in Minneapolis, faces an allegation of rape that could bring formal charges as early as Friday when a police investigation is complete.
Details of the allegations against Liu, who was released from police custody Sunday after being arrested on a charge of 'criminal sexual conduct' and has since returned to China, were revealed in a public disclosure by police in Minneapolis late Tuesday. If charged and ultimately convicted of rape, Liu could face up to 30 years in prison, although his attorney Joseph Friedberg has stressed that there is "no credible complaint" at this stage and police have thus far declined to comment on whether the accuser is co-operating with authorities. Three U.S. law firms have also said they are preparing investigating potential securities claims against the company for potentially misleading or withholding details of Liu's arrest from shareholders.
"I'm very confident that there will be no criminal charges," Friedberg said in a statement published by Bloomberg. "They realized that this whole thing was ridiculous and they turned him loose. They didn't ask for his passport, they didn't ask for any bail."
JD.com's Nadsaq-listed shares were marked 5.5% lower in early Wednesday trading, following a 6% slide Tuesday, and changing hands at $27.80 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date decline to just over 30% and value the group at around $40 billion.
Should Liu be asked to return to the United States to face charges, however, the impact of his absence from the online retailing giant would be severe, given that he owns around 15% of the group's outstanding stock and controls around 80% of its voting rights. His presence is also required at board meetings in order to sign-off on any major strategic initiatives.
Liu, 45, had been completing the final stages of an MBA program for international students at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management when he was arrested late Saturday. The billionaire founder of JD.com was released without having to pay bail, according to police records, and left the U.S. shortly afterwards. At present, there is no formal method of extradition between the U.S. and China to that would compel him to return to face charges if they were ultimately brought by the states's District Attorney.
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