WINNIPEG, MB – Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was arrested on charges alleging he sexually abused women and girls after luring them into his orbit with opportunities in fashion and modeling over the last 25 years.
Nygard, 79, was detained after a Winnipeg, Canada, court appearance Tuesday following his Monday arrest by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S. No date was set for a bail hearing, though he was due to return to court Jan. 13.
His lawyer in Winnipeg, Jay Prober, said his client denies all allegations and blames a conspiracy caused by a feud with his billionaire neighbor in the Bahamas.
“That is Mr. Nygard's contention. This all stems from a conspiracy from the hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon,” Prober said in a phone interview. “He expects to be vindicated in court but the first order of business is to make a bail application for him considering his age of 79 and his medical issues. He's very susceptible to the worst consequences of COVID-19 which is really running rampant in our jails."
Bacon could not be immediately reached for comment.
Nygard's arrest on sex trafficking, racketeering and related charges came after the FBI raided his Manhattan offices earlier this year.
The raid came soon after 10 women sued Nygard, saying he enticed young and impoverished women to his Bahamas estate with cash and promises of modeling and fashion opportunities. Several plaintiffs in the suit, filed in New York City, said they were 14 or 15 years old when Nygard gave them alcohol or drugs and then raped them.
In announcing criminal charges, authorities said Nygard used the prestige of an international clothing design, manufacturing, and supply business he founded and headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, to persuade victims, sometimes with a history of being abused, to submit to his demands.
According to an indictment, he capitalized on the Nygard Group’s influence, using its employees, funds, and resources to recruit women and girls under the age of 18. The indictment alleged that Nygard and his co-conspirators, including Nygard Group employees, used force, fraud, and coercion to enlist the women and girls, who were sexually abused and assaulted by Nygard and others.
The indictment said Nygard offered false promises of modeling opportunities and other career advancement, along with financial support, to lure victims, while restricting their movements to isolate them. It said he forcibly sexually assaulted some victims while others were forcibly assaulted by his associates or were drugged to ensure compliance with sexual demands.
Dozens of adult and minor-aged females were enlisted to engage in commercial sex through fraud, force and coercion, the indictment said.
It said Nygard maintained personal and quasi-professional relationships with some victims, referring to them as “girlfriends” or “assistants" while requiring them to travel with him regularly and to engage in sexual activity at his direction with himself, with each other or with others.
It said he also directed them to recruit new women and minor-aged girls to be sexually abused.
Nygard abused some women and girls at his properties in Marina del Rey, California, and in the Bahamas, during so-called “Pamper Parties" where some women, including minors, were drugged to force compliance with his sexual demands, the indictment said. It added that he sometimes paid the women and girls amounts ranging from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars.
He also directed and pressured “girlfriends” to have sex with other men at sex and “swingers” clubs in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Winnepeg and utilized sexual “swaps” in which male friends and business associates would bring Nygard a “date” for sex in exchange for sexual access to one of Nygard's “girlfriends,” the indictment said.
Meanwhile, 57 women, including 18 Canadians, have joined the lawsuit, which alleges that Nygard used his company, bribery of Bahamian officials and “considerable influence in the fashion industry” to recruit victims in the Bahamas, United States and Canada.
“The fact it is finally being acknowledged that he is a predator, and that he has done so much damage to so many for so long, and now he’s going to have to be accountable, it’s amazing,” said April Telek, a 47-year-old Canadian actress who says she was raped by Nygard at the age of 20 in Winnipeg.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have given permission to be named publicly, as Telek has done.
Telek said Nygard used money and intimidation to keep women from coming forward.
The lawsuit alleges Nygard kept a database on a corporate server containing the names of thousands of potential victims.
Nygard’s accusers had their passports taken from them when they were flown into the Bahamas, the lawsuit alleges, adding the designer “expected a sex act before he was willing to consider releasing any person” from his estate.
A spokesman for Nygard said earlier this year he was stepping down as chairman of Nygard companies and would divest his ownership interest.
Nygard International began in Winnipeg as a sportswear manufacturer. Its website says its retail division has more than 170 stores in North America.
“We are encouraged that a small measure of justice for Peter Nygard is finally developing,” Greg G. Gutzler, a lawyer for the women, said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press Writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report.