Fashion mogul Peter Nygard has asked a Canadian judge to release him on bail because he claims he is unable to keep up his sugar-free diet or sleep in a suitable bed in prison, while he awaits possible extradition to the US on sex trafficking and racketeering charges.
Lawyers for Nygard, 79, argued his health has ‘seriously deteriorated’ behind bars and that he is vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, as his two-day bail hearing kicked off Tuesday.
Jay Prober, Nygard’s lawyer, told Justice Shawn Greenberg in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that keeping the Canadian fashion tycoon in custody during the pandemic ‘would be nothing short of a death sentence.’
Nygard is currently being held in Headingley Correctional Centre accused of assaulting dozens of women in a decades-long sex trafficking scheme.
Canadian police arrested him in Winnipeg on December 14 at the US government’s request under the countries’ extradition treaty.
US officials say Nygard used his influence and businesses to recruit dozens of women and girls as young as 14 to sexually gratify himself and his associates.
The abuse allegedly dates as far back as 1995 and took place in the US, Canada and the Bahamas.
Prosecutors said the victims were assaulted by Nygard or his associates, with some drugged to ensure they met his sexual demands, and that Nygard often targeted victims who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or who had suffered abuse.
Fashion mogul Peter Nygard (pictured in 2017) has asked a Canadian judge to release him on bail because he claims he is unable to keep up his sugar-free diet or sleep in a suitable bed in prison, while he awaits possible extradition to the US on sex trafficking and racketeering charges
Nygard appeared in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench via video link Tuesday, wearing a grey shirt and with his grey and white hair pulled into a bun.
He had a grey sweater draped over his shoulders and wore a blue face mask.
‘Before you this morning is a 79-and-a-half year old man — [a] frail man, almost 80 years old,’ Prober told the court Tuesday morning.
‘We will be arguing that keeping him in jail at these times of the COVID pandemic is nothing short of a death sentence and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.’
In an affidavit, Nygard said his prison diet provides him with a ‘low level of nourishment’ and doesn’t include vitamins, fruit and vegetables.
He said he is fed sugary food and ‘white carbs’ which he said he removed from his diet a decade ago and that he was violently ill after having his first meal in custody.
‘My health has seriously deteriorated. I am getting weaker every day,’ Nygard said.
Two of his associates, one of them a convicted drug dealer, have offered their houses as sureties for Nygard and his defense insisted he is not a flight risk.
Nygard with Anna Nicole Smith. Lawyers for Nygard, 79, argued his health has ‘seriously deteriorated’ behind bars and that he is vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, as his two-day bail hearing kicked off Tuesday
Peter Nygard and Suelyn Medeiros at Virgin Unites Midnight Magic Gala in 2007. Nygard is currently being held in Headingley Correctional Centre accused of assaulting dozens of women in a decades-long sex trafficking scheme
However, prosecutor Scott Farlinger said he opposed bail because Nygard is a flight risk and a danger to re-offend.
Greg Fenske, a former employee at Nygard’s fashion business, told the court he will act as a surety if Nygard is released.
Fenske no longer works for him after several Nygard companies went into receivership in March 2020.
But he said he is a consultant to Nygard on receivership and pays himself $2,000 per week for his role, reported CBC.
Fenske told the court he believes Nygard is innocent and said he would house his former boss at the million-dollar house where Nygard was arrested back in December and which he said is owned by Fenske’s consultancy.
‘I believe in Mr. Nygard’s innocence,’ Fenske said.
‘I believe that for a number of months, we were working towards a process that would see us be able to reacquire some of the assets of the company and formulate a business.’
Nygard’s Bahamas compound where some of the alleged abuse took place
His Bahamas estate. Canadian police arrested him in Winnipeg on December 14 at the US government’s request under the countries’ extradition treaty
He said he lives close by and would visit daily and monitor the home with motion-sensitive cameras to ensure Nygard didn’t flee.
During cross-examination, Farlinger suggested the home was actually bought by Nygard, through a company called Edson’s.
Fenske denied knowing who owns Edson’s.
Nygard’s second surety Steve Mager is a former cocaine dealer and Hells Angel associate.
Mager said he would put up $300,000 equity in his two homes for Nygard’s release.
The prosecution has raised doubts about the two people put forward as sureties.
The bail hearing is expected to last for two days.
Nygard appears in front of a judge in court in Winnipeg on December 15 in this court sketch
It was originally scheduled for January 6 but was pushed back after the prosecution said it needed more time to coordinate with the US and review defense materials, which they said were submitted late by Nygard’s lawyers.
US authorities have until February 12 to make a formal extradition request.
Once the request is made, Canada will have 30 days to decide whether to agree to the extradition.
Nygard was arrested under the Extradition Act last month and faces nine federal charges filed in the Southern District of New York.
He is accused of using his prominence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls in with the promise of modeling or other job opportunities before he and his associates sexually assaulted them.
The allegations span a 25-year period and involve dozens of women in the US, the Bahamas and Canada, among other locations.
A sign bearing the likeness of Peter Nygard is displayed outside his Times Square headquarters in February 2020
His arrest comes months after US federal authorities raided his Manhattan offices (pictured) earlier in 2020
According to an indictment, Nygard 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 victims, who were sexually abused and assaulted by Nygard and others.
US officials say Nygard used his influence and businesses to recruit dozens of women and girls as young as 14 to sexually gratify himself and his associates
‘Nygard frequently targeted women and minor-aged girls who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and/or who had a history of abuse,’ prosecutors wrote in December.
Prosecutors say victims were lured to Nygard’s compound in the Bahamas, where he forced them to engage in sexual activity at his direction and to recruit other women and minor-aged girls for Nygard to have sex with.
The victims were also allegedly kept under constant surveillance by Nygard and his associates and were not allowed to leave without his permission, prosecutors said.
Nygard has denied the allegations and claims they have emerged following a feud with his neighbor in the Bahamas.
His arrest came months after US federal authorities raided his Manhattan offices earlier in 2020.
He also faces a US civil lawsuit by at least 57 female accusers, which is on hold pending the US criminal investigation.
The allegations in the criminal case mirror those in the suit with some accusers saying they were 14 or 15 when Nygard raped or sexually assaulted them.
Born in Finland, Nygard grew up in Manitoba, eventually running his namesake clothing companies Nygard International and becoming one of Canada’s wealthiest people.