Canada fashion exec Nygard pleads not guilty to sex assaults

Disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard on Thursday pleaded not guilty to five counts in Toronto of sexual assault and one of forcible confinement, ahead of his trial next week.

The 82-year-old founder of Nygard International, who has been held in prison since his arrest in 2020, is being tried for alleged crimes going as far back at the 1980s.

Nygard faces similar charges in Quebec and Manitoba, as well as extradition to the United States, where he has been accused of raping dozens of women and girls, racketeering and trafficking.

The alleged victims in the United States have accused the Finnish-Canadian of grooming and luring them to his luxury estates on the pretense of lucrative modelling opportunities.

He and his alleged accomplices, including employees of his group, “used force, fraud, and coercion to cause women and minors to have sex” with them, according to the US indictment.

The details of the charges he is facing in Toronto are expected to be made public when the trial begins next week.

Jury selection got underway Thursday. The trial in the Superior Court of Justice is set to last more than six weeks.

Reports from the Toronto courtroom described Nygard being rolled in in a wheelchair, looking frail, with his long, usually flowing gray hair tied in a bun.

At another hearing last week, the number of charges against him were reduced from 11 originally, with five complainants now set to testify, instead of eight.

At the time the Toronto charges were laid in October 2021, Nygard was already fighting the US extradition request.

Nygard has long boasted about his rise from humble beginnings, as a young immigrant who built a fashion empire with nearly 170 stores at its peak.

His company, however, filed for bankruptcy shortly after the FBI and police raided Nygard’s Manhattan corporate headquarters in 2020.

In the United States, he’s accused of using company funds to host dinner parties, poker games and so-called “pamper parties” where minor girls were drugged and women assaulted if they did not comply with his sexual demands.

American prosecutors have also claimed he paid from corporate accounts for victims’ plastic surgery, abortions and child support. (AFP)

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