A famous Chinese billionaire who became entangled in a rape trial after a guest to his Sydney penthouse dinner party was accused of sexually assaulting a model can now be named as online shopping mogul Liu Qiangdong.
Nicknamed the “Jeff Bezos of China”, Liu is the founder of internet marketplace JD.com and, according to Forbes, his net worth is almost $US10 billion.
The Herald is able to reveal the identity of Liu, who uses the first name Richard in western countries, after jointly fighting two court bids to keep his name suppressed.
He is married to one of China’s youngest female billionaires Zhang Zetian, 24, nicknamed “Sister Milk Tea”.
The couple’s luxury apartment in The Rocks was the setting of an exclusive get-together on December 26, 2015.
It was where, a jury heard during an eight-day trial, a 20-year-old woman became very drunk after being “forced” to drink by men at the party, excluding Liu.
Party guest Longwei Xu, who uses the first name Tommy, offered to take the woman home but instead took her back to his Shangri-La Hotel room and sexually assaulted her during an hour-long ordeal.
“When he attempted to rape me, Tommy said that he would buy a boat for me, but I refused,” the woman said during the trial.
On Monday, Xu was found guilty of seven offences, including indecent assault, assault and having sex with the woman without her consent, knowing that she wasn’t consenting
The woman was introduced to Xu through a mutual acquaintance, ‘Coco’, who she met while working as a bikini model on a masquerade-ball boat party.
Coco allegedly repeatedly invited the model to “meet with certain friends” who “were very rich and from China”.
The woman declined multiple offers but eventually agreed to Coco’s invitation to a “birthday party” for her brother on December 26, the jury heard.
Under cross-examination, defence barrister Robert Webb put to her that Coco told her via messaging application WeChat that the people at the party were “very high-ranking and very rich”.
“She just said it was her younger brother,” the woman said, agreeing that Coco had told her the guests at the party would be “handsome and rich”.
The jury heard the woman had messaged her boyfriend, telling him she was going to be dining with Liu that night.
She was picked up by Xu and others in a chauffeured white Land Rover and taken to the opulent, three-level apartment sitting atop the Stamford Residences building.
The apartment, which takes in panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, is now on the market with a reported price tag of about $16 million.
During her opening address, Crown prosecutor Sarah Talbert said “before they entered the penthouse … the accused told [the victim] not to take any photos of the owner of the penthouse because he was from China and because he was very famous.”
“They entered the penthouse, they walked into the living room, and the complainant saw a number of men who were there at the time, including a man who was a well-known Chinese billionaire,” she said.
On the second day of the trial barrister Craig Smith SC appeared on Liu’s behalf to apply to have his client’s identity suppressed.
Judge Nicole Noman SC agreed by making an interim order prohibiting the publication of anything could identify, or tend to identify, Liu.
The next day, following a story by the Herald, the suppression order was broadened to include the words “billionaire” and “penthouse”.
Judge Noman overturned the order last Friday but lawyers acting for Liu appealed the decision to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The appeal was heard on Monday afternoon and leave was refused.
Liu often flies to Sydney and has substantial business interests in Australia.