Peter Nygard, from Canadian fashion mogul to convicted sex abuser

Described as egocentric and manipulative, Peter Nygard built Canada’s largest womenswear maker — and on Sunday he was convicted of using that status to sexually assault women and girls.

The flamboyant fashionista hawked blouses and slacks at major department stores and his own outlets, and once threw lavish parties at his homes in the Bahamas — a Mayan-inspired playground with fake volcanoes — and Los Angeles.

But after a seven-week trial in Toronto, the 82-year-old was convicted of four counts of sexual assault, following testimony that he had sexually abused four women and a 16-year-old girl between 1988 and 2005.

Nygard was also found not guilty of a single count of sexual assault and another count of forcible confinement.

Canadian prosecutor Ana Serban accused him during the trial of having used his “power and status as a wealthy fashion designer to lure and sexually assault young women.”

Similar allegations — all of which Nygard has denied — have been made in Quebec and Manitoba, and he also faces extradition to the United States, where he has been accused of abusing dozens of women and girls, racketeering and trafficking.

Lisa Haba, a lawyer representing almost 60 women suing Nygard in the United States, has previously told AFP that “Nygard is worse than (Jeffrey) Epstein,” the US financier who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial over sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges.

“We believe he had more victims, and he was more violent,” she told AFP in 2021.

– ‘A monster’ –
In the Toronto courtroom, several women said Nygard had invited them to tour his opulent Canadian offices on the pretense of lucrative modeling or other opportunities, only to find themselves “trapped” in a top floor bedroom suite with a hot tub.

A contractor who renovated the space testified it had no interior door handles and required “a key code” controlled by Nygard to exit.

Tearing up on the stand, the women — who by court order cannot be identified — alleged that Nygard had berated and sexually abused them.

One called Nygard “a monster.”

“He lunged at me and adeptly pinned me on the bed. I kept repeating the word ‘no,’ at least 50 times,” said another. “He angrily told me off for not cooperating: ‘Why aren’t you just letting me do this to you? Other girls let me do this.'”

Once a towering and sinewy figure, Nygard dined with Queen Elizabeth II and rubbed shoulders with political leaders and Hollywood stars.

He had long boasted about his rise from humble beginnings, as a young Finnish immigrant who built a fashion empire with almost 170 stores at its peak, and amassed a personal fortune worth Can$850 million (US$620 million).

To the jury, the king of polyester claimed to have “invented the Casual Friday look.”

A bust of Nygard in his Toronto office lobby, one of his accusers suggested, “indicated a huge ego… like he wanted everyone to feel his importance when they entered.”

“He talked about himself a lot,” and “his shirt (was) more undone than it should have been,” the court heard.

– ‘Pamper parties’ –
His accusers, however, found a diminished man rolled into court in a wheelchair, his once flowing blond mane turned grey, and his formerly golden complexion gone pale.

On the stand, Nygard, once a proponent of anti-aging therapies, lamented his failing eyesight and hearing, as well as “memory lapses.”

“I recommend not to get old,” he said.

Police raided his Manhattan corporate headquarters in 2020, and his company filed for bankruptcy protection shortly afterward.

His arrest came after a whistleblower released footage that included a 17-year-old dancing on a stripper pole on Nygard’s private Boeing 727 plane.

“Nygard would just come down and choose a girl. Usually they would be drunk,” Stephen Feralio, Nygard’s personal videographer, told the CBC.

In the United States, prosecutors allege Nygard used company funds to host “pamper parties” where minor girls were drugged and women assaulted if they did not comply with his sexual demands.

They also claimed he paid from corporate accounts for victims’ plastic surgery and abortions — as well as child support for at least 10 children he reportedly fathered with eight different women. (AFP)

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