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A bail application for embattled fashion mogul Peter Nygard was adjourned Wednesday after lawyers for the attorney general of Canada requested more time to examine extradition materials from U.S. authorities and affidavits from his defence team.
Nygard, 79, is facing possible extradition to the U.S. to face charges of sex trafficking and racketeering spanning three decades.
Nygard, appeared by video from Headingley Correctional Centre for Wednesday’s hearing, his long grey hear pulled back in a bun, wearing a disposable face mask, which he pulled below his chin at one point to reveal a grey moustache.
He was arrested on an extradition warrant and taken into custody Dec. 14. He will remain in custody pending a two-day bail hearing now scheduled for Jan 19-20.
Coverage of Winnipeg business icon Peter NygardClick to Expand
Posted: 11:45 AM Mar. 10, 2020
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. Justice officials in New York have filed a nine-count indictment against Nygard for sex-trafficking and racketeering offences over decades.
Scott Farlinger, counsel for the attorney general, said he will be opposing Nygard’s release, arguing he poses "a serious risk of flight," is a risk to offend while on release and that his release would bring the justice system into disrepute.
Nygard lawyers Jay Prober and Richard Wolson urged Queen’s Bench Justice Theodor Bock to at least start the hearing, arguing Nygard was at grave risk of contracting COVID-19 while in custody.
"To adjourn the matter without even getting started today would be grossly unfair and grossly unjust, particularly because COVID is rampant at Headingley," Prober said. "Every day that Mr. Nygard languishes there puts his life at risk."
Nygard has a pacemaker and suffers from several health conditions considered complicating factors for COVID-19, including coronary artery disease, Type 2 diabetes, and blood-pressure issues, a doctor said in an affidavit filed in support of his release.
"Mr. Nygard has a high probability of developing a severe morbid or fatal outcome while in custody," said Dr. Harvey Lee, identified in the affidavit as a doctor specializing in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism. "His current circumstances and present condition and the potential for contracting COVID-19 remains high."
Nygard, in his own affidavit, said his health has "seriously deteriorated" during his three weeks in custody.
"I am getting weaker every day," he said. "I have lost weight, have difficulty breathing (it’s getting worse), have suffered dizziness and fainting spells as well as numbness in my hands and toes. Unfortunately, I am not getting the nourishment necessary to keep me safe and healthy. I can only digest about 20 per cent of the food served."
Riddled by debt, Nygard doesn’t have the money to flee the country, a Nygard International executive alleged in an affidavit. The Nygard Group of companies was placed in receivership last March after lenders White Oak Capital and Second Avenue Capital Partners went to court for repayment of a US$25 million loan.
"With the receivership of his companies Peter Nygard has lost virtually everything except for his home in the Bahamas and his Falcon Lake cabin," said Greg Fenske, who offered to put up a $900,000 surety for Nygard and let him live at a home he owns, under his supervision.
"Knowing Peter Nygard the way I do, I do not consider him to be a flight risk whatsoever," Fenske said. "He remained in Winnipeg and Falcon Lake part of the winter (since February 2020), all of the spring, all of the summer and all of the fall knowing full well that he was under investigation by the U.S. authorities."
Prober dismissed concerns Nygard poses a flight risk, noting he previously offered, through his lawyers, to turn himself in to police in July, and again in September.
"It’s unusual in my opinion that he wouldn’t already have been released, in the form of a promise to appear (in court) or an undertaking," Prober told Bock. "I think the problem is Mr. Nygard’s case has generated a media frenzy, basically a lynch-mob atmosphere. That’s what we are faced with and it’s grossly unfair."
"It’s unusual in my opinion that he wouldn’t already have been released, in the form of a promise to appear (in court) or an undertaking" – Nygard lawyer Jay Prober
A nine-count indictment filed in the Southern District of New York spanning 1995 to 2020 alleges Nygard, 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, among other locations."
Nygard is accused of raping and trafficking women and young girls for sex, targeting victims from "disadvantaged backgrounds" and with a "history of abuse." He is accused of silencing them with "threats, false promises of modelling opportunities" and "other coercive means."
The allegations mirror those of more than 50 women included in a class-action lawsuit filed against Nygard in Manhattan last February.
Nygard said in his affidavit he has not renewed his passport and no longer owns a private jet. If released, he would "rigorously follow" all bail conditions, including 24-hour house arrest and wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.