Whether Peter Nygard will be granted bail remains undetermined, as a Manitoba judge has reserved her decision until Feb. 5.
Attorneys for the 79-year-old Nygard, who is still being held in a Winnipeg jail, have argued repeatedly that his health is at risk, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Arrested in December at the request of U.S. officials, the founder of Nygard International is facing a nine-count indictment that includes racketeering and sex trafficking allegations that have been brought forward by the U.S. Southern District of New York. Dozens of women have accused Nygard of varying degrees of criminal behavior including rape and sexual assault over a 25-year period.
Initially scheduled for two days, the bail hearing in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench has been extended again. Justice Shawn Greenberg said Thursday that she needed a few days and rescheduled the next court date for next week.
Citing “the urgency of the COVID-19 situation,” one of Nygard’s lawyers Richard Wilson immediately asked the judge for an earlier date, “if at all possible.” Justice Greenberg said she had other obligations but offered to move up the date should that be a possibility.
Early in the hearing, one of Nygard’s attorneys, Jay Prober, disputed a CBC article that claimed Nygard’s Canadian passport has an expiration date of March 19. Nygard has denied he is a flight risk and that he let his passport expired last fall.
Representing the attorney general of Canada, Scott Farlinger, opposed the house arrest for multiple reasons such as the fact that having on-site security or video surveillance for Nygard doesn’t notify the surety or the monitoring company whether he is inside the house. He also suggested that ankle bracelet monitoring would be needed to ensure that Nygard does not leave a specific geographical area. His other concerns included that Nygard not have any contact with the accusers and access to passports.
Farlinger also said Greg Fenske would not be acceptable as a guardian. A former Nygard employee, Fenske, who consulted with the Nygard company about receivership issues, testified last week that he would make sure Nygard was staying home by visiting daily, calling the landline in the house and monitoring motion-detection cameras at the entrance and the exit of the property.
“He was gifted a house that has been transferred around and is now in his name for the sole purpose of having something on hand to offer Mr. Nygard for bail,” Farlinger said. “I would emphasize to the court that we have been offered very little visibility the funds of Mr. Nygard,” adding that Nygard could access finance funds through his $40 million mansion in the Bahamas. Farlinger also acknowledged the potential for witness tampering, should Nygard be released.
Wearing a stained gray shirt, and a face mask that appeared to be inside out, Nygard appeared virtually and his image was projected onto a large screen, according to a pool report. The Finnish-born Nygard exited his Canada-based company last year, and it was placed into receivership. The potential for him to access funds has been a point of debate in the bail hearing.
Should Nygard be granted bail Nygard’s lawyers told the judge there would be “continuous surveillance” of him with the highest technology and a presence in the house, and that an ankle bracelet was available but “frankly repetitive” in regard to the plan suggested. They later reconsidered that and also offered to provide the phone numbers for any outgoing calls.
During Thursday’s hearing, William Dietterle, president of BIL Security, testified about the reliability of his surveillance services, which would be used should Nygard be released.
Early in the proceedings Prober speculated about the timeline for the extradition hearings with a date set for April, with motions expected to be dealt in May or June, and it could be as late as the fall before any motions or actual hearing.
By chance, next week’s court date coincides with the release of a four-part series “Unseamly: The Investigation of Peter Nygard” on the subscription streaming service Discovery+.