Fashion executive Peter Nygard agrees to extradition to face US sex crimes charges

A 2005 photo shows Nygard (centre) at an event as part of the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. PHOTO: AFP

MONTREAL (AFP) - Fashion executive Peter Nygard agreed in a Canadian court on Friday (Oct 1) to be extradited to the United States where he faces charges of raping dozens of women and girls, racketeering and trafficking.

Held in prison since his arrest in Winnipeg, Manitoba last December, the 80-year-old Finnish-Canadian millionaire made a brief court appearance via video link.

Scott Farlinger, a lawyer representing the Canadian government in the case, explained that Nygard, who'd been denied bail on the grounds he might tamper with witnesses or his accusers, had opted not to fight the extradition.

"This process can now move forward in order for him to face trial in the United States," defence lawyer Brian Greenspan confirmed.

That, he said will provide Nygard "the opportunity to raise his defence and to challenge the truthfulness of the evidence which has been brought against him." Canada's attorney-general must still approve the extradition.

Nygard faces nine charges in the United States involving dozens of victims - women and girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or who had histories of abuse whom he groomed and lured to his luxury estates on the pretence of lucrative modelling opportunities.

His alleged crimes, according to the US indictment, took place between 1990 and 2020. Nygard and his accomplices, including employees of his group, "used force, fraud, and coercion to cause women and minors to have sex" with them, it said.

The perma-tanned Nygard, known for his long, flowing grey hair and flamboyant dress sense, has denied the allegations.

Also on Friday, Toronto police announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Nygard for six alleged sexual assaults, some involving forcible confinement, between 1987 and 2006.

Pamper parties, stripper pole

His case has drawn parallels with that of late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he killed himself in a New York jail in 2019.

According to Lisa Haba, a lawyer representing women suing Nygard in a class action, "Nygard is worse than Epstein."

"We believe he had more victims," she told AFP. "And he was more violent in the crimes he committed," including "incredibly violent rapes (and) forcing victims to defecate on him."

His victims, she added, have suffered "lifelong and all-consuming" pain.

Nygard, the founder of women's clothing company Nygard International, was reported to be worth over Can$850 million in 2015, according to Canadian Business magazine.

He has long boasted about his rise from humble beginnings, as a young immigrant who built a fashion empire with nearly 170 stores at its peak.

His company, however, filed for bankruptcy shortly after the FBI and police raided Nygard's Manhattan corporate headquarters last year.

Several women have joined the class action launched in February 2020, accusing him of having assaulted, raped and sodomised them at his seaside mansion on New Providence island, some of them when they were young teens.

A screen grab shows Nygard speaking from jail, via video link, during his extradition hearing in Canada on Oct 1, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

According to court documents, company funds were said to have been used to host dinner parties, poker games and so-called "pamper parties" where minor girls were drugged and women assaulted if they did not comply with his sexual demands.

Partygoers were often photographed and their personal information including weight and physical measurements kept in a registry.

Nygard also paid from corporate accounts for victims' travel, living expenses, plastic surgery, abortions and child support, said prosecutors.

A behind-the-scenes video shot by a whistleblower who'd spent three years documenting Nygard showed him flirting with a 16-year-old girl at the 2012 London Olympics, and a 17-year-old dancing on a stripper pole on Nygard's private Boeing 727 plane.

"Nygard would just come down and choose a girl. Usually they would be drunk," Stephen Feralio, who'd been hired as Nygard's personal videographer, told public broadcaster CBC.

"If I don't expose him, he's going to get away with all the things that he's been doing," he said.

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