February 22, 2020

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Class-action lawsuit alleges Nygard sexually assaulted 10 women, girls at island estate

Peter Nygard, founder and chairman of Nygard International, is the subject of a class-action lawsuit alleging he lured women, many of them minors, to his Bahamian estate so he could sexually assault them — part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme.

JASON HALSTEAD / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Peter Nygard, founder and chairman of Nygard International, is the subject of a class-action lawsuit alleging he lured women, many of them minors, to his Bahamian estate so he could sexually assault them — part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme.

A class-action lawsuit alleges Winnipeg fashion mogul Peter Nygard lured women, many under the age of 18, to his Bahamian estate so he could assault, rape and sodomize them — part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme his companies helped him achieve.

Ten women, whose identities are being withheld, filed the lawsuit Thursday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

It seeks financial damages, and a jury trial on behalf of the complainants and an unknown number of others, against Peter J. Nygard, Nygard Inc., Nygard International Partnership, and Nygard Holdings Ltd.

The 99-page lawsuit says three of the women in the claim were only 14 when Nygard raped them, while two others were 15. Nine of the women are Bahamian citizens; the 10th is a U.S. citizen.

"The destruction of innocent lives is immeasurable," the document alleges.

"When Nygard became aware of the investigation into his sex-trafficking ring, he resorted to tactics of violence, intimidation, bribery, and payoffs to attempt to silence the victims and to continue his scheme."

No statement of defence has been filed, and the allegations have not been tried in court.

Nygard, 77, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

However, Nygard's lawyer, Jay Prober, said: "This lawsuit was expected," and Nygard himself predicted it would happen when he filed a lawsuit last year in New York against American hedge-fund billionaire Louis Bacon.

Bacon is Nygard's neighbour in the Bahamas. The men have had a long-running, public feud, which has escalated to lawsuits and other court actions.

"This is just the latest in a 10-plus-year string of attempts to try to destroy the reputation of a man through false statements," Prober said Thursday.

"It is no different than the conspiracy exposed in 2010, through various legal actions filed by Peter Nygard, where it was shown that girls were bought off to make such false claims," the lawyer said.

"The allegations are completely false, without foundation, and are vigorously denied. Peter Nygard looks forward to fully exposing this scam and once and for all clearing his name."

The lawsuit alleges Nygard (and his companies) would host so-called "pamper parties," inviting young women to his Bahamas property for free photo shoots, manicures, pedicures and massages. Those gatherings were a front to "facilitate his sex-trafficking ring," the lawsuit says.

"The atmosphere at the 'pamper parties' is intended to impress vulnerable and impoverished children and young women, so that he can lure and entice his victims onto the Nygard Cay property with promises of modelling contracts and coerce and force them, or knowing that they had not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in commercial sex acts," the lawsuit says.

The documents also allege, "Only females that meet Nygard's sexual specifications of being slim-bodied and beautiful are on the list. Nygard has also described the females he desires as an 'eight in the face and nice toilet.' Other girls that do not meet this qualification are turned away at the security gate."

The lawsuit alleges the Nygard fashion company is tied in because its corporate accounts are not only used to pay for the drugs, alcohol, entertainment and food used at such gatherings, but "also provided the cash that Nygard delivered to accomplices and victims to facilitate Nygard's commercial sex acts with children and young women."

"The Nygard companies knowingly financed Nygard's commercial sex acts," the document alleges.

The lawsuit claims by marketing Nygard's "playboy image, the Nygard Cay property, and pamper parties as part of the Nygard brand... benefitted the Nygard companies and provided Nygard with access to a steady supply of victims."

The lawsuit claims Nygard "has a preference for young girls and prefers underaged victims" and, after he selects who he wants to sleep with, he encourages them to drink alcohol. If they still resist them, he has his bartenders lace the drinks with drugs, the court documents allege.

Nygard also is accused of forcing his victims to engage in unwanted sexual acts — called "deviant acts" in the court documents.

"Nygard often sodomizes his victims and asks them to defecate on him, including in his mouth. He also requests that his victims urinate on him and demands that victims on their menstrual periods provide him their menstrual blood for eating," the lawsuit alleges.

"Due to the extreme deviant nature of Nygard's sexual conduct, his victims feel even more degraded, ashamed and embarrassed than the typical sexual-assault victim."

The lawsuit further alleges Nygard stations his personal security guard to stand outside his bedroom door and the entire Bahamas property is surrounded by barbed wire with a security gate, which will only be opened at his command.

"The only way out, other than the main gate, is to swim through shark-infested waters," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims because Nygard paid "tens of thousands of dollars to law enforcement, government officials, regulators, and even to a former cabinet minister who became the prime minister of the Bahamas," if victims did escape, they were often brought back to his estate by police.

The documents also allege the women Nygard found "most attractive and sexually desirable" would become his full-time sex workers, who he called his "girlfriends," and would help recruit "new victims to attend his pamper parties."

"Nygard treated sex like a currency," the lawsuit says.

The court documents allege Nygard has since 1987 kept on his company's computers a database of potential victims, which had grown by the mid-2000s to have information and photos of more than 7,500 women.

The lawsuit claims Nygard has used his company's boats to transport drugs, liquor and supplies to the "pamper parties" in the Bahamas, and the company's jet to fly victims from the Caribbean to places including his estates in California, Florida, and New York.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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History

Updated on Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 4:46 PM CST: Clarifies headline to specify Nygard is accused of assaulting women and girls.

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