Peter Nygård will have to spend another week, at least, in a Canadian jail as he faces numerous charges of sexual assault and other crimes in the United States.
The apparel manufacturer, whose business is bankrupt but operated for decades creating cheap women’s apparel, is being charged by U.S. prosecutors with a number of crimes surrounding an alleged history of recruiting and paying young women for sex and frequently sexually assaulting and raping the women, many minors, over the course of decades. Nygård is looking to be let out of jail as he awaits Canada’s decision on an extradition request by U.S. prosecutors, and while a decision on that front was expected today, his defense team requested additional time to prepare given a judge in Manitoba’s criticism of their proposed bail plan.
“My biggest problem is Mr. Fenske,” the judge said, referring to Greg Fenske, a longtime associate of Nygård. Under the proposed bail plan, Nygård would be released to a $1 million home Fenske recently purchased in Canada, through funds that allegedly came directly from Nygård, and would be monitored by Fenske and others to ensure he would not flee and would cooperate with court orders and prosecutors.
“We’ve got to have someone who has a reason to monitor the individual,” the judge added. “Mr. Fenske has nothing to lose, so how does that satisfy me he will monitor Nygård’s actions? And I’ve got a problem with the manipulation of the money. It’s very suspicious.”
Likely understanding that their bail plan would not be approved, Nygård’s attorneys asked to privately convene with him. When they returned to the court, it was to ask for an adjournment, just before the hearing was expected to end and the judge to render a decision. The judge agreed, but said should a new bail plan be proposed, she and the prosecution would need advance notice of any changes. The hearing was adjourned to Jan. 28.
Over the course of what was supposed to be a two-day hearing on the issue, the prosecution argued for Nygård to remain in police custody due to several factors, mainly that he is a flight risk and a danger to the community given the seriousness of his alleged crimes.
“The pattern of the offenses brings the ordinary sex assault claims here in a class by itself…a level of coordination and planning to these offenses that renders it almost unique,” the prosecutor said.
“The evidence is that Nygård created almost an industry to feed predatory behavior…using the machinery of the Nygård group,” he added.
The prosecution also claimed that Nygård has a history of not appearing for court proceedings and likely has access to substantial funds and assets through various legal and business entities, increasing their suspicion that he could and would attempt to flee to another country. The prosecutor noted recent transfers of millions of dollars to known associates, one to purchase a house in Canada for Nygård to live comfortably while out on bail. He floated an estimation that Nygård has access to as much as $70 million through various entities that are controlled by the same group of Nygård’s associates.
“The court has been provided very limited visibility into Nygård’s finances,” the prosecutor said. “We don’t have any visibility into his access to other businesses in his network of entities.”
But Nygård’s defense team relied heavily on arguments surrounding their client’s 79 years of age and his allegedly “poor health,” claiming Nygård has diabetes and a pacemaker. The issue of his age and health were also put in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with one of Nygård’s lawyers pushing an idea that keeping him in custody to await extradition is “inhumane” given the risk of the virus.
“Surely we are a more humane society than that and we have a more humane justice system than that,” his lawyer said. The judge made no comment.
As for being a flight risk, Nygård’s lawyer argued that he doesn’t have the will or the money to flee and his health is too poor to do so, even if he did. He also rejected essentially all of the allegations against him, saying, despite prosecutors having more than two dozen women claiming they were assaulted, as well as email and phone records to support their claims, Nygård’s defense team has not yet been given access to any of the prosecution’s evidence.
“All we have is allegations and generalities of a pattern of wrongful conduct.”
Such claims about the case against him did not stop Nygård’s attorneys from attempting to play down the case against him. They briefly argued, as they have before, that the case is due to a “feud” with his neighbor in the Bahamas, but also that U.S. prosecutors have “recruited” women to make claims against Nygård.
Although they presented no evidence to support this, Nygård’s attorneys said, “It may well be several of the alleged victims will recant.”