Tuesday’s bail hearing in the Manitoba Court for Peter Nygård, who is facing charges of sexual misconduct in the U.S., resulted in adjournment until Jan. 19 and 20.
Dozens of women have accused the self-made millionaire of varying degrees of sexual misconduct including rape and sexual assault over a 25-year period. Those alleged incidents were said to have happened in the U.S., the Bahamas and Canada.
Nygård was arrested Dec. 14 at the request of U.S. officials who are seeking extradition of Nygård, who is facing a nine-count indictment in the Southern District of New York that includes sex trafficking and racketeering charges.
Prior to the court hearing, Nygård had been deemed a potential flight risk. After the apparel magnate spent two weeks in a Winnipeg jail, his legal team filed a bail application on Dec. 31.
An attorney for Nygård, Richard Wilson, said to delay the matter is “to play Russian roulette” with the 79-year-old’s health, and also noted that health restrictions related to COVID-19 have made acquiring affidavits and other material more challenging. In addition, the prevalence of the coronavirus in the Provence was another factor, according to Nygård’s legal team.
In announcing the adjournment, attendees were reminded of how the case has generated considerable media interest and that Nygård is “entitled to the presumption of innocent until proven guilty,” by court officials. Crown prosecutors requested the adjournment to provide time to respond to evidence and examine some of Nygård’s witnesses. The Crown also acknowledged that Nygård’s health is a concern, as it is with every person who is held in custody, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Theodor Bock granted the delay to the next available date. He said, “I suspect that corrections officers are taking reasonable care of Mr. Nygård’s health and will continue to do so.”
The attorney general of Canada is representing the U.S. in the extradition process. Scott Farlinger represented the attorney general of Canada at Tuesday’s hearing, during which he requested a special sitting date to “be provided a reasonable amount of time to respond to the material that has been provided, some as recently as Monday afternoon, and [an additional affidavit] yesterday morning.”
Farlinger said that Nygård poses a serious risk of flight and access to funds, and the potential interference of justice were among his other concerns.
Earlier in the proceedings, Jay Prober, an attorney for Nygård, said, “To adjourn the matter without even getting started today would be grossly unfair and grossly unjust… particularly because of the pandemic and COVID-19 is rampant. Every day that Mr. Nygård languishes there puts his life at risk.”
Prober said that he had been advised by Farlinger and U.S. authorities and the attorney general that the full extradition package would not be available until Feb.12. Nygård’s attorney said it would be “unconscionable” for an (imprisoned) person to have to wait for that happen. “It really is quite astounding that there is no consent to Mr. Nygård’s release,” said Prober, adding that he and Wilson had contacted the Winnipeg police on two different occasions prior to his arrest that he would have come in voluntarily.
In opposition to a delay of any kind, Prober noted that the case has already created “a media frenzy.”
In regards to Prober’s concerns about the extradition proceedings, Farlinger noted that they are set by the statute, and “are intended to take as long as regular and domestic proceedings. Extradition matters are intended to be expeditious, and in fact in the statute itself, it indicates that the court is obligated to set the earliest possible hearing date. And certainly the attorney general intends to proceed at the earliest possible hearing date once an authority to proceed is issued.”