Peter Nygard was denied bail Friday in the Manitoba Court of the Queen’s Bench.
The lengthy decision was rendered by Justice Shawn Greenberg, who said Nygard is a flight risk and noted concerns of potential witness tampering. The Finnish-born, self-made entrepreneur will await an extradition hearing in jail.
At the request of U.S. officials under the countries’ extradition treaty, Canadian police arrested Nygard in December and he has been held in a Winnipeg jail since then. In the bail hearing, his attorneys repeatedly argued that the 79 year-old’s health is at risk while imprisoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Facing extradition to the U.S., Nygard has been charged with sex trafficking, racketeering and other crimes. Dozens of women have alleged that Nygard committed varying degrees of criminal behavior over a 25-year period of time. Among the claims that Nygard is facing is that used his businesses to recruit and maintain victims in the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas. Nygard has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Wearing a gray shirt with white stains and his hair was pulled back in a bun, Nygard appeared in court digitally and showed “no physical reaction,” after being denied bail, according to a press pool report.
In delivering her decision, the judge noted that Nygard could potentially face a minimum sentence of 10 years or a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The Nygard legal team had lobbied that he could be released to live in a $989,000 house with 24-hour video surveillance that was owned by former Nygard employee Greg Fenske, who previously testified in the bail hearing. Greenberg noted Friday how the idea that Nygard could not afford to renew his passport was hard to believe.
She also noted how the charges Nygard is facing reflect decades of conduct that was facilitated by the help of others. The judge acknowledged how COVID-19 is a factor but not the only factor, in that the social distancing needed to stop the spread is nearly imp. But she added that COVID-19 is “not a get out of jail free card.” In addition, there are no reported COVID-19 cases in the Manitoba jail, she said.
In delivering her decision, Greenberg acknowledged the potential for Nygard to influence witnesses by contacting them with a cell phone and through social media.
The state of Nygard’s finances and potential access to those funds was a point of great debate in the bail hearing. Neither Nygard’s attorney Jay Prober nor Scott Farlinger, who was representing the attorney general of Canada, offered anything further after the decision was given. Farlinger had previously argued that Nygard’s sureties were insufficient.
What was initially expected to be a two-day hearing last month had stretched out longer than expected.
Interest in the case has sparked programs for the general public — as noted by Greenberg in general terms Friday. “Unseamly: The Investigation of Peter Nygard” is a new four-part series on the streaming subscription service Discovery+, and “Evil by Design” is a podcast produced by the Canadian Broadcast Corp. The CBC podcast is hosted by Timothy Sawa, a producer and journalist with the CBC program “The Fifth Estate,” who has spent the past 10 years investigating the sexual misconduct allegations against Nygard. As of Friday morning, there had been 245,000 downloads since the Jan. 28 launch, according to a CBC spokeswoman.