Peter Nygard to remain behind bars after Winnipeg judge criticizes release plan

·3 min read

WINNIPEG — A Canadian fashion mogul facing charges for sex trafficking and racketeering in the United States will remain behind bars after a judge expressed concerns over the plans for his release on bail.

Justice Shawn Greenberg said there were serious issues with the former executive who offered to ensure that his former boss Peter Nygard doesn’t break any bail conditions in Winnipeg.

Greg Fenske does not have property to offer as collateral. Court heard the home Fenske is offering as a place for Nygard to stay was actually purchased with the fashion mogul’s money.

"He's got no skin in the game," Greenberg said Wednesday.

Nygard, 79, was arrested last month in Winnipeg under the Extradition Act and faces nine charges in the southern District of New York.

He is seeking bail while it is decided whether he will be sent to the U.S. to face trial. Nygard’s lawyers asked the justice for more time to develop a new plan and the hearing will continue on Jan. 28.

Federal lawyers argued the seriousness of the allegations that Nygard faces in the U.S. outweigh any risk that he faces behind bars.

Scott Farlinger, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada, told court Wednesday that Nygard engaged in a decades-long pattern of using force and coercion to get sex for himself and others.

“There is a level of premeditation, co-ordination and planning,” Farlinger said.

Farlinger said Nygard’s complicated business structures leave him with the means to flee. He said Nygard has a history of not showing up to court and U.S. authorities have made allegations he has previously interfered with the administration of justice by bribing witnesses.

But Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, said his client has no intention of leaving and is too ill to travel. Nygard's lawyers argued the spread of COVID-19 in jail is putting him at risk.

They say Nygard's health has already declined since his arrest. They say he has lost weight and suffers from dizzy spells.

He has heart disease and a pacemaker, among other health issues. Nygard's lawyers said he is also struggling behind bars with his vegetarian diet and issues with sugar.

Nygard appeared in the Winnipeg courtroom by video from the correctional centre where he is being held. He wore a grey shirt and had his long grey and white hair tied in a bun at the back of his head. He continuously touched and readjusted his face mask during the hearing while also jotting down notes.

Fenske and another former Nygard employee have offered to ensure that the fashion mogul doesn’t break any bail conditions in Winnipeg if released.

Steve Mager, Nygard’s director of construction who has offered his home as collateral, has a criminal record and Farlinger said Mager cannot commit the time needed to monitor Nygard.

Federal lawyers argued both former employees were unacceptable options.

Authorities in the U.S. accuse Nygard of using his influence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls with the promise of modelling and other financial opportunities.

They allege that for 25 years Nygard targeted women and underage girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and forcibly sexually assaulted them.

Prober has said his client denies all the allegations against him.

The full package of extradition materials from U.S. prosecutors is not expected to be provided to Canadian authorities until February. Nygard’s lawyers say it’s unfair to keep him locked up without that information.

Nygard founded his fashion company in 1967 in Winnipeg, where it grew from a partial stake in a women’s garment manufacturer to a brand name sold in stores around the world.

He stepped down as chairman of the company after the FBI and police raided his offices in New York City last February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press