Richard Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder of online retail giant JD.com, has returned to China after he was arrested and subsequently released in the US for alleged sexual misconduct.

JD.com confirmed that Liu was taken into custody by the Minneapolis police on August 31, the Beijing-based company said in a statement on Monday. It said Liu was released without any charges and without requirement for bail.

Nasdaq-listed JD.com and Liu, one of China’s most famous tech titans, were among the hottest topics on Weibo following reports of that incident.

Liu, the chairman and chief executive of JD.com, was brought in at 11:32pm on August 31 and released the next day at 4:05pm on probable cause for criminal sexual conduct, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s arrest record. In Minnesota, the term covers a range of non-consensual sexual contact.

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that the country’s consulate in Chicago was looking into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Liu.

The investigation of Liu is ongoing, according to the Minneapolis Police Department. The police, however, did not impose any travel restrictions on Liu, who was in the US to attend the residency component of a business-education programme run by the University of Minnesota.

Richard Liu Qiangdong, founder of JD.com, was arrested in Minneapolis on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct, jail records show. (Picture: AP/Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

Born into a poor family in the coastal province of Jiangsu, Liu founded a 43 square-foot shop in Beijing’s electronics hub Zhongguancun in 1998, selling CD-ROMs and computer parts. At a group lunch at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, he told some 50 guests in attendance that he started the business to earn money to treat his ailing grandmother.

In 2003 when the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic seized China and forced people to stay home, Liu shut down his bricks-and-mortar shop and moved online -- setting up a retail website that would later become JD.com. Today, the company is the second largest e-commerce services provider in China, behind Alibaba.

In June this year, JD.com sold a less than 1% stake to Google for US$550 million. As part of that deal, JD.com also joined Google Shopping, an advertising platform for online merchants, where its products will be available to consumers globally.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)