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This article was published 15/3/2016 (1439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg fashion mogul Peter Nygard is defending himself against accusations he masterminded a murder-for-hire plot aimed at opponents of a planned expansion of his luxurious property in the Bahamas.
Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie has called on the police to investigate the claims, according to news reports in Bahamian media today.
In a lawsuit filed in Bahamian court last week, five plaintiffs who are members of a non-governmental organization called Save The Bays – including Nygard’s neighbour, American hedge fund manager Louis Bacon – allege Nygard paid two known criminals to threaten, intimidate and plan to kill them.
The allegations are "a pack of lies," and Nygard’s legal team is set to launch a counter claim, said Winnipeg-based lawyer Jay Prober, who spoke to the Free Press on Nygard’s behalf.
The accusations against Nygard include secretly recorded video of Nygard meeting with two men described as known criminals, and sworn statements from them saying Nygard paid them large sums of money to organize anti-Save The Bays protests that portrayed Bacon as a racist and to commit arson and other crimes against Nygard’s opponents. The men, Livingston "Toggie" Bullard and Wisler "Bobo" Davilma, allege Nygard had a hit list of people he wanted them to "deal with."
"Bahamians say ‘deal,’ mean take care of business, kill. That’s the way Bahamians talk," Davilma said in his statement to private investigators.
The court documents also allege corruption at top levels of the Bahamian government, suggesting the prime minister had promised Nygard he would be allowed to build on government property to expand his Nygard Cay resort and that Nygard had close ties to the deputy prime minister’s office. Christie denied these allegations during a House of Assembly session this week, according to the Nassau Guardian newspaper, and said he has asked the police to investigate the claims.
"The suggestion that I used the power of my office to extend special treatment to Peter Nygard is completely and utterly false," the newspaper quoted Christie as saying.
The plantiffs – Bacon, lawyer Fred Smith, Reverend C.B. Moss, Joseph Darville and Romauld Ferreira – said in a written statement provided to the Free Press that the Royal Bahamas Police Force "failed to adequately respond" despite an alleged 2.5-year-long campaign of harassment, death threats, fire bombing and physical attacks against them. They say they were forced to launch their own private investigation, resulting in the lawsuit. Accusations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.
"During this investigation, multiple sources have provided credible evidence that two of the plaintiffs are/were the targets of a murder-for-hire plan. With this lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek the protection of the Bahamian judicial system in the hope that by shining a bright light into a dark corner, the plaintiffs, their families and their colleagues will be shielded from any further acts of violence and intimidation," the statement reads in part.
But Prober, on Nygard’s behalf, said the lawsuit is a "thinly-veiled publicity stunt" based on dishonest statements from criminals he says were paid as much as $3 million to talk to private investigators. They gave a sworn statement to Prober and another Winnipeg lawyer in March 2015, saying they were paid to give statements to the private investigators even if the statements were untrue, Prober said.
"The claim in the Bahamas is without merit, absolutely without merit, and the allegations are false. And they are based on the perjured testimony of two criminals. Not only is the testimony perjured testimony, but it was purchased," Prober said.
He said Nygard’s lawyers in the Bahamas have been instructed to ask that the lawsuit be dismissed as ""frivolous, vexatious, scandalous and prolix," and to call on police to investigate whether Livingston and Davilma should be charged with counselling to commit murder based on their recorded meeting with Nygard. Prober said the lawsuit is a way for Bacon to get back at Nygard because of a lengthy dispute between the neighbours.
"He’s dispatched these two criminals to exact some kind of vigilante justice against Nygard."
Nygard didn’t have anything to do with criminal acts Livingston and Davilma stated they committed, Prober said. They were only to provide security to Nygard, he said.
"They were referred to him for security reasons because he was going into some rougher areas of Nassau to assist with under-privileged children and so on. These guys were referred to him by somebody in the government that vouched for them."
Asked whether the allegations could affect Nygard’s Winnipeg-based clothing business, Prober said "Hopefully it won’t. Hopefully people would realize he would never be a part of any such scheme."
Nygard founded his clothing manufacturing company in Winnipeg in the late 1960s. Nygard International supplies women's clothing worldwide and has corporate offices around the globe, including on Inkster Boulevard.
Nygard's six-acre Nygard Cay oceanfront property includes a resort in Lyford Cay, a gated community in Nassau. Resort rentals there cost up to $26,000 per night. Next to Nygard's property in the gated community is Bacon's compound. The neighbours have been involved in legal disputes for more than a decade.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.