Peter Nygard has agreed to be extradited to the United States to face prosecution on sex charges.
Nygard, 80, consented to the extradition on one charge of sex trafficking during an early morning hearing Friday before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Glenn Joyal.
Nygard has been in custody since last December when he was arrested on a U.S. extradition warrant. He faces prosecution in New York on nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering.
Nygard appeared for the hearing via video from Headingley Correctional Centre and consented to his extradition. Court heard he signed consent forms Thursday.
"That's correct, yes," said Nygard, who wore a mask and a green jacket. His grey hair was pulled back in a bun.
Nygard is being represented by lawyers Brian Greenspan, Richard Wolson and Jay Prober.
The U.S indictment against Nygard alleges that from 1995 to 2020, Nygard — alongside his business associates and co-conspirators — engaged in a "pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada."
Nygard is accused of raping and sex trafficking young girls, often targeting individuals from "disadvantaged backgrounds" with a "history of abuse," and keeping them quiet via "threats, false promises of modelling opportunities" and "other coercive means."
Nygard’s agreement to extradition is not an admission of guilt, Greenspan said outside court.
"The threshold for extradition is a very low threshold, it’s the same standard as committal for trial at a preliminary (hearing)," he said. "All that was conceded today was that because of this low standard there is sufficient evidence based on extradition law to warrant a consent to committal on the one charge."
It will now be up to the federal justice minister to ultimately approve Nygard’s extradition, a process complicated, at least in the short term, by the fact the position is currently vacant, Greenspan said.
Nygard has been charged with nine offences relating to sex crimes alleged to have taken place in Toronto between 1987 and 2006.
University of Manitoba law professor Gerard Kennedy said the justice minister has a number of options to weigh before extradition is granted, including how close to prosecution the cases are, Canada's treaty obligations and the general administration of justice in both countries.
"It certainly would be permissible for the justice minister to want to proceed with the Canadian charges first, but it would be equally permissible for the justice minister to decide that if the U.S. prosecution is further on, to allow the U.S. prosecution to proceed," Kennedy said.
"(The justice minister) can also extradite on the condition that (Nygard) be returned to Toronto to face trial once the process in the U.S. is over. That’s a possibility the justice minister may well consider, if he’s trying to keep both Canada and the United States content."
A four-day extradition hearing had been set for November but a decision was made to "expedite" the process, given Nygard’s age, his lawyer said.
"He is 80 years old and this has taken a tremendous toll on him," said Wolson. "We can only assume that he is not going to get any better in the short term. This whole process was about him having a trial in the U.S. His hope and ours is that he will be vindicated."
Greenspan said he hopes to make submissions to the federal justice minister’s office within the next 10 days and have a decision within the following 60 days.
"Hopefully, we will have the identity of the minister by then," he said. "We hope to have that process done by the end of the year."
Greenspan said lawyers will be seeking assurances from the justice minister that Nygard will not be held in "inhumane" conditions while in detention in New York.
Greenspan said it will be up to the justice minister to decide whether to await the outcome of charges in this country before approving extradition or to seek assurances from U.S. authorities that Nygard will be sent back to Canada following the conclusion of proceedings in New York.
— With files from Erik Pindera and The Canadian Press
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