Arts & Life
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A Winnipeg agency that offers crisis counselling for sexual-assault victims has seen an uptick in calls in the wake of allegations about local fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
And a British newspaper has published photographs of Nygard vacationing at his Bahamas estate with Prince Andrew, his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their two daughters Princess Eugenie and Beatrice, as well as him partying with scantily clad women — touching one on the buttocks — at his private nightclub there.
Rosemarie Gjerek, director of counselling and community health services with Klinic Community Health, said she was unable to say whether any calls have been connected to the Nygard allegations, but there has been an increase in the overall number.
"When we have accounts like this in the media we get a number of women coming forward," Gjerek said Wednesday.
"There is a sense of strength knowing you're not alone. Some will come forward publicly, others privately. They are calling our sexual-assault services line, wanting to have counselling. These numbers are what happens when something like this comes out."
Gjerek said there was a similar bump in calls when allegations came out against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement.
"Sometimes it is just having it public and knowing you're not alone," she said. "It reduces the guilt, it makes you feel less alone. But it brings back memories. We are an important service and resource. We're always here to help."
A class-action lawsuit was filed in New York City last Thursday alleging the 78-year-old Nygard lured women and girls under the age of 18 to his estate in the Bahamas so he could allegedly assault, rape and sodomize them, as well as engage them in unwanted "deviant" sexual acts, as part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme.
Nygard's companies are also being sued because the court documents allege its accounts were used to pay for the drugs, alcohol, entertainment and food used at his so-called weekly "pamper parties," which he allegedly used to find his victims, as well as the money used to pay for the commercial sex acts.
The 99-page lawsuit detailed allegations from 10 women, including three who were 14 years old at the time and three others who were 15; nine of the 10 were citizens of the Bahamas. Lawyers handling the suit have told the Free Press that dozens more alleged victims have stepped forward since the court action was filed, and they believe there could be hundreds of others.
The lawsuit estimates Nygard's wealth at about $900 million.
No statement of defence has been filed and none of the evidence has been proven in court.
Jay Prober, Nygard's Winnipeg lawyer, has said the his client denies all of the allegations and believes it is just the latest action sparked by his long-running feud with his Bahamian neighbour, American hedge-fund billionaire Louis Bacon.
"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 has said.
"The allegations are completely false, without foundation, and are vigorously denied."
A senior Bahamian politician said Tuesday he is calling for a police investigation into allegations Nygard was able to hide the sex-trafficking ring at his estate by bribing police and politicians.
"Those are some serious allegations being made and I am certain the police would want to follow up on them to determine exactly whether there is any validity to them," National Security Minister Marvin Dames told The Bahamian newspaper.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. published a photo of Prince Andrew — who in recent months has received negative scrutiny because of his friendship with now-dead American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein — walking with Nygard at the Bahamas estate dubbed Nygard Cay sometime around June 2000.
As well, the newspaper also published a photo of Andrew's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, and their daughters Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, along with Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos of Greece, with Nygard in 1997.
These photos accompanied six other racier photographs taken at the mansion in 2007, and obtained exclusively by the Daily Mail, showing Nygard, watching three young women in bikini bathing suits gyrating against each other in close proximity to him. In one photograph, Nygard is seen touching a woman's buttocks while she bends over in front of him and puts her hands on the floor.
The Daily Mail makes clear it has no evidence that any of the women in the photographs were sexually assaulted by Nygard or that any of them are part of the civil-suit allegations.
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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