SYDNEY, Australia — A Chinese property developer was sentenced on Friday to two and a half years in prison for sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman after they attended an exclusive dinner party at the Chinese billionaire Richard Liu’s harborside penthouse apartment three years ago.
Mr. Liu, the founder of JD.com, one of China’s largest and most successful online retailers, was not accused of any wrongdoing in this case, but fought to prevent the release of his name in court proceedings, citing potential damage to his marriage and business.
According to court documents, the Chinese developer, Longwei Xu, met his accuser, a model, through a mutual acquaintance. On Dec. 26, 2015, the pair went to the party at Mr. Liu’s Sydney penthouse, where the young woman was told not to take pictures because the owner is famous in China.
“I remember the owner didn’t force me to drink, but other males forced me to drink,” the woman told the court, adding that she quickly became intoxicated to the point that she could not put on her own shoes.
Mr. Xu, who also goes by the name “Tommy,” then brought the woman to the Shangri-La Hotel, where he was staying, and repeatedly tried to have sex with her in his room, officials said. The model said “I don’t want this” several times during the hourlong struggle, and yelled for help, according to the prosecutor.
“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 through an interpreter. The woman also told the court that she eventually managed to get out of the bed when Mr. Xu fell asleep.
Mr. Xu was found guilty of seven charges in July, including having sex with his accuser without her consent. He has been in custody since July 23, according to his lawyer.
“He maintains his innocence,” Winston Terracini, the lawyer said. “An appeal will be processed as soon as possible.”
Mr. Terracini added that he does not understand the media attention around this case.
In a separate case, Mr. Liu, the Chinese tech billionaire, was arrested in Minnesota on Aug. 31 on charges of sexual misconduct, but was released pending a formal complaint.
Mr. Liu’s connection to the two cases has drawn considerable attention in China and beyond, providing a rare peek inside the tycoon’s lavish lifestyle. Amid a wave of accusations taking place in China, the cases are being discussed by the public through the lens of the #MeToo movement.
Following the release of Mr. Liu’s name in the Australian court proceedings in July, a spokesman from his company said that Mr. Liu had “expressed his deep sympathy for the victim and profound sadness about the incident.”
However, articles about the case in the Chinese news media subsequently disappeared, having become the apparent target of censors.
The penthouse where Mr. Liu hosted the dinner party was bought for his wife before they wed in Sydney in 2015, according to local media. Last year, the couple tried to sell the apartment, citing Australia’s distance from China as the reason.