A Manitoba judge has put over a bail hearing for Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard after counsel acting for the attorney general of Canada sought a delay and a special sitting dedicated to the matter.
Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Theodore Bock granted the request for a delay and a special sitting sought by lawyer Scott Farlinger, rescheduling the hearing for Jan. 19 and 20.
Nygard, 79, is facing charges in the U.S. on nine counts of crimes that include racketeering, sex trafficking and sexual assault allegedly involving dozens of women and girls.
He has been in custody in Manitoba since his arrest at a Winnipeg home on Dec. 14, 2020, following a request by the U.S. government to have him extradited.
He appeared in court Wednesday via video link from Headingley Correctional Centre wearing a blue surgical mask with his hair in a bun.
Nygard’s legal team argues Nygard’s health is at risk while he’s in custody because of the COVID-19 pandemic and said Nygard is not a flight risk.
His lawyer, Jay Prober, told court the longer Nygard “languishes” in jail, the greater risk to his health.
“In effect, to delay this matter is to play Russian roulette with his health,” another defence lawyer, Richard Wolson, told the court Wednesday.
WATCH | Bail hearing for Peter Nygard rescheduled after Crown seeks delay:
But lawyers for the attorney general of Canada disagreed. Farlinger told the court Nygard has the means to flee and a history of skipping court appearances in the Bahamas.
Farlinger said the Crown opposes the bail application on all grounds but asked for a delay because of the late submission of materials. Farlinger told court Prober hadn’t provided prosecutors with Nygard’s affidavit until Monday morning, weeks after his arrest.
‘Force, fraud and coercion’ to entice victims, RCMP allege
U.S. authorities laid out the allegations against Nygard in a 24-page federal grand jury indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern district court of New York last year.
In the document, officials allege Nygard forcibly sexually assaulted, drugged, and/or coerced dozens of victims in the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas, as well as other locations.
RCMP detailed further allegations in an affidavit filed in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench in December, requesting authorization to arrest Nygard on the U.S. government’s behalf under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty.
“Nygard and multiple co-conspirators have used force, fraud and coercion to recruit and entice female victims, both adults and girls ages 14 to 17, to engage in paid sex with Nygard and, on occasion, with Nygard’s business and personal associates,” the document says.
In the affidavit, the RCMP allege Nygard is a danger to the community, both in Canada and the U.S., and express concern that he would flee if he wasn’t arrested.
U.S. authorities have been conducting a long-term investigation into Nygard and his alleged co-conspirators, “establishing a decades-long pattern of criminal activity” that has affected “hundreds of victims,” RCMP Sgt. Stefane Nicolas wrote in the affidavit.
Class action suit on hold
Police also alleged women have been victimized in Winnipeg, Falcon Lake, Man., and Toronto, with the help of employees of Nygard’s global fashion business.
Nygard also faces a class-action lawsuit in New York in which 57 women accuse him of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking dating back to 1977. The lawsuit names multiple upper-level Nygard company executives, officers and directors accused of enabling the sex assaults.
In August, that case was put on hold to allow the FBI to continue their criminal investigation into Nygard.
The FBI is urging anyone who believes they are a victim of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Nygard to contact them at 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324).