WINNIPEG, Manitoba/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was charged on Tuesday with sex trafficking, racketeering and other crimes targeting dozens of women and underage girls over a quarter century in three countries, U.S. authorities said.
Canadian police arrested Nygard in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Monday at the U.S. government’s request under the countries’ extradition treaty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said Nygard, 79, had since 1995 used his influence and businesses to “recruit and maintain” victims in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas to sexually gratify himself and his associates.
“Mr. Nygard vehemently denies all the allegations and expects to be vindicated in court,” his lawyer Jay Prober said.
Nygard wore a white face mask, a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, with his long white hair pulled back in a bun, at an initial appearance in a Winnipeg courtroom.
He was led away while wearing handcuffs and leg chains. Nygard plans to seek bail, and his next scheduled hearing is on Jan. 13, 2021.
Nygard also faces class-action civil litigation in Manhattan by 57 unnamed women accusing him of sexual misconduct. He has denied wrongdoing.
Born in Finland, Nygard grew up in Manitoba, eventually running his own namesake clothing companies and becoming one of Canada’s wealthiest people.
Authorities said that victims were assaulted by Nygard or his associates, with some drugged to ensure they met his sexual demands, and that Nygard often targeted victims who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or had suffered abuse.
The nine-count indictment said Nygard used multiple means to recruit victims.
These allegedly included company-funded “Pamper Parties” named for their free food, drink and spa services, and held at his properties in Marina del Rey in California and the Bahamas.
The indictment said Nygard took some victims – he called them “girlfriends” – to swingers clubs where they would be intimidated into having sex with other men, “to facilitate Nygard having sex with other women and for his own sexual gratification.”
Nygard also used threats of arrest, reputational harm and lawsuits to silence potential accusers, the indictment said.
In February, Nygard stepped down as chairman of Nygard International after its New York headquarters near Times Square was raided by the FBI.
The company filed for bankruptcy in March.
Nygard has also been embroiled in a decade-long feud, including defamation claims and other litigation, with billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, who owns an adjacent property in a gated Bahamas community.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard Goller)