Led into a Winnipeg courtroom in shackles, Peter Nygard walked slowly as he came into view, surrounded by sheriffs and dressed in the grey sweatshirt and track pants of an inmate.
A mask covered his face, his long grey hair was tied into a messy bun, and he sat in the prisoner’s box looking dishevelled and dismayed.
His aging, frail body did not resemble the coiffed and muscled image that for years was plastered on billboards across Winnipeg and emblazoned on signs at his retail shops in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and the Bahamas.
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.
Nygard’s brief court appearance Tuesday marks the latest chapter in his remarkable life story — from his birth in Finland, to his humble upbringing in Deloraine, through the forging of his fashion empire in Winnipeg, and his eventual downfall amid mounting rape allegations in the #MeToo era.
Nygard, 79, was arrested Monday by RCMP federal investigators — acting at the behest of U.S. authorities seeking his extradition — at a residence in south Winnipeg.
Tuesday morning, a nine-count indictment for racketeering, sex-trafficking and related offences was unsealed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
And Tuesday afternoon, after spending the night in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, Nygard appeared before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sheldon Lanchbery for an extradition hearing.
The unsealed indictment reads similar to the claims more than 50 women and their lawyers have repeatedly made since Feb. 13, when a class-action lawsuit alleging a decades-long reign of terror and abuse was filed in a Manhattan court.
Nygard 'top girlfriend,' niece accused in Florida, California lawsuitsClick to Expand
Posted: 12:50 PM Dec. 15, 2020
A Florida woman is suing fallen fashion mogul Peter Nygard’s “top girlfriend,” Instagram model Suelyn Medeiros, claiming she lured her and other young women to his Bahamian estate to be raped.
From 1995 through 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, among other locations," according to the indictment.
Nygard is accused of raping and sex trafficking women and young girls, often targeting individuals from "disadvantaged economic backgrounds" with a "history of abuse," and keeping them quiet through "threats, false promises of modelling opportunities" and "other coercive means."
He’s alleged to have used the "façade of legitimacy his fashion business created — as well as the Nygard Group’s business operations, reputation and resources — to facilitate and conceal his crimes," according to U.S. authorities.
Jay Prober, Nygard’s longtime lawyer, requested a publication ban be imposed on Tuesday’s hearing, claiming his client’s right to a fair trial overruled the press’s right to report on the proceedings, and warning the situation could turn into a "media circus."
“On behalf of the dozens of survivors of decades-long abuse, we are encouraged that a small measure of justice for Peter Nygard is finally developing. We are relieved that some measure of accountability is hopefully forthcoming.” — Greg Gutzler, a lawyer representing plaintiffs is a class-action suit against Nygard
But Lanchbery rejected the request, saying he was not satisfied a publication ban was necessary to ensure a fair trial. The only issue to be decided by the Manitoba court is whether Nygard is to be extradited, he said.
"The court will not decide the guilt or innocence of Mr. Nygard. Mr. Nygard is currently, and will continue to be, cloaked in the presumption of innocence," Lanchbery said.
The case was adjourned to Jan. 13. For the time being, Nygard will remain in custody — although it’s possible his legal team may file a bail application prior to his next scheduled court appearance.
Nygard 'serious flight risk,' considered travel under alias, RCMP officer saysClick to Expand
Posted: 6:44 PM Dec. 15, 2020
Phone records seized by justice authorities show as recently as this past June, Peter Nygard “was considering the logistics of travelling under an alias,” alleges an RCMP affidavit filed in support of Nygard’s extradition to the U.S.
“I believe Nygard presents a serious flight risk,” Sgt. Stefane Nicolas, a member of the force's Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit, wrote in the affidavit made public Tuesday.
In a brief phone interview with the Free Press, Prober said Nygard is "innocent and vehemently denies these allegations."
Given Nygard’s age and pre-existing medical conditions, Prober said his client would be "susceptible to the worst consequences" of COVID-19 were he to remain in jail and catch the virus. He also claimed Nygard is not a flight risk.
"Where would he go? If he wanted to go, he would have gone a long time ago," Prober said.
Nygard has been the subject of mounting rape allegations throughout 2020, with 57 women signing onto a class-action lawsuit alleging a disturbing pattern of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1970s and spanning several continents.
Greg Gutzler, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs on the class-action, said in a written statement sent to the Free Press that Nygard’s victims have been waiting for the day of his arrest for a very long time.
"On behalf of the dozens of survivors of decades-long abuse, we are encouraged that a small measure of justice for Peter Nygard is finally developing. We are relieved that some measure of accountability is hopefully forthcoming," Gutzler wrote.
"But we would be remiss if we did not state that this is something that should have been done decades ago. We also hope that his accomplices and co-conspirators are brought to justice for their web of lies and abuse."
The criminal charges against Nygard come 10 months after special agents with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives from the New York City Police Department raided his international headquarters in Times Square.
This is not the first time Nygard has faced charges in connection with sex crime accusations. In 1980, Winnipeg police charged him with the rape of an 18-year-old woman, but the offence was later stayed by the Crown after the alleged victim refused to testify in court.
In 1996, Nygard settled sexual harassment complaints filed against him by three former workers for about $15,000. Despite the alleged pattern of misconduct, former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz awarded Nygard an honorary key to the city in 2008.
Should he be extradited to stand trial, Nygard will be prosecuted by the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that secured indictments against Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein — two of the most high-profile sexual predators to fall in the #MeToo era.
— With files from Katie May
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