Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard is in custody in Winnipeg and is facing a nine-count indictment in the United States on charges of racketeering, sex trafficking and related crimes.
The 79-year-old was taken into custody Monday in Winnipeg by RCMP and city police after the United States asked Canada to issue a warrant under the two countries’ extradition treaty.
The charges relate to “a decades-long pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas, and Canada, among other locations,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The FBI, who raided Nygard’s offices in New York and Los Angeles in February this year, requested the arrest warrant.
A dishevelled-looking Nygard, who is currently being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, appeared in court Tuesday afternoon with his long hair in a bun. His feet and hands were shackled and he wore a grey sweatshirt and grey track pants.
Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, has asked for a publication ban.
Scott Farlinger, representing the Attorney General of Canada, has opposed it, saying publication bans are issued in Canada to protect the accused’s right to a fair trial, which doesn’t apply in this case as the trial will be held in the U.S.
He also said the U.S. State Department has already issued a press release, outlining the details of the charges against Nygard.
Justice Sheldon Lanchbery called for a break to consider the application.
“The survivors of our lawsuit have been waiting for this day for a very long time,” Lisa Haba, one of the lawyers representing victims who are suing Nygard alleging rape and sexual assault, told CBC News.
“Peter Nygard’s arrest marks the next chapter in holding him and his accomplices accountable for the unspeakable crimes against women and children they have perpetuated for decades. We will continue to seek justice.”
The FBI is urging anyone who believes they are a victim of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Nygard to contact them at 1-800-CALLFBI. (1-800-225-5324)
WATCH | Women describe their encounters with Nygard. Warning: contains graphic details.
A total of 57 women have joined a class-action lawsuit accusing Nygard of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking — in some cases the allegations go back as far as 1977.
It was filed earlier this year in New York.
The lawsuit also names a number of upper-level Nygard company executives, officers and directors who are accused of enabling the sex assaults.
The class action was put on hold in August when a judge presiding over the case in the Southern District of New York entered a stay of proceedings, court records show.
A stay of proceedings means the case has been put on hold, but it doesn’t mean it’s been dropped. The court can later lift the stay and continue the proceedings.
“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,” said Greg Gutzler, another lawyer representing complainants against Nygard said Tuesday about the fashion mogul’s arrest.
“We are relieved that some measure of accountability is hopefully forthcoming, but we would be remiss if we did not state that this is something that should have been done decades ago.”
From at least in or about 1995 and up to and including in or about 2020, while Nygard was the leader of his international clothing design and manufacturing business headquartered in Winnipeg, he “used the Nygard Group’s influence, as well as its employees, funds, and other resources, to recruit and maintain adult and minor-aged female victims for [his own] sexual gratification and the sexual gratification of his friends and business associates,” states the indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
Nygard and his co-conspirators, including employees, used force, fraud and coercion to cause women and minors to have sex with him and others, the indictment reads.
It says he frequently targeted women and minor-aged girls who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and/or who had a history of abuse. The indictment said Nygard controlled his victims through threats, false promises of modelling opportunities and other career advancement, financial support and by other coercive means.
The indictment says Nygard paid his victims for commercial sex using Nygard Group funds, including by putting “girlfriends” on the payroll as models, assistants or in other positions.
Nygard denies all allegations
Nygard, whose companies were once worth hundreds of millions of dollars, has denied all the allegations and none of them have been proven in court.
Nygard stepped down as chairman of the Nygard companies, a spokesperson said in February.
In the past, Nygard has been listed as one of the richest Canadians. His empire once included a palatial estate in the Bahamas, with administrative and production facilities in Winnipeg, Toronto, Los Angeles and a world headquarters in New York.
In March of 2020, nine of his companies were forced into receivership by the courts in Manitoba. Nygard’s companies owe millions of dollars to several creditors.