Canada court to weigh extraditing fashion exec accused in US of sex crimes

Montreal (AFP) –


Fashion executive Peter Nygard, wanted in the United States for alleged sex crimes, is to appear in a Canadian court Friday for an extradition hearing.

Held in prison since his arrest in Winnipeg, Manitoba last December, the 80-year-old Finnish-Canadian millionaire faces nine charges in the United States, including racketeering and sex trafficking.

These involve dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada, and include minors, according to the New York federal attorney overseeing the case.

His extradition trial had been scheduled for five days in November but was unexpectedly pushed up to this week and is only expected to last one hour.

Earlier this year Nygard was denied bail on grounds he might tamper with witnesses or his accusers. The judge noted he had breached court orders on at least five past occasions and that the accusations against him were "disturbing."

His alleged crimes, US prosecutors said, took place between 1990 and 2020. Nygard 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 indictment.

He targeted women and girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or who had histories of abuse, using "the ruse of modelling and other fashion industry jobs" to lure them, it said.

His company's funds were said to have then been used 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.

Corporate accounts were also tapped to pay for victims' travel, living expenses, plastic surgery, abortions and child support, said prosecutors.

According to court documents, partygoers were often photographed and their personal information including weight and physical measurements kept in a registry.

The perma-tanned Nygard, known for his long, flowing gray hair and flamboyant dress sense, and who claimed stem cell injections kept him young, has denied the allegations.

- 'Worse than Epstein' -

His case has drawn parallels with that of late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he killed himself in a New York jail in 2019.

"Nygard is worse than Epstein," Lisa Haba, a lawyer representing women suing Nygard in a class action, told AFP, saying the victims suffered "lifelong and all-consuming" pain.

"We believe he had more victims," she said. "And he was more violent in the crimes he committed," including "incredibly violent rapes (and) forcing victims to defecate on him."

Several women have joined the class action launched in February 2020, accusing him of having assaulted, raped and sodomized them after luring them to his seaside mansion on New Providence island, some of them when they were young teens.

Nygard, the founder of women's clothing company Nygard International, was reported to be worth over $850 million (US$ 670 million) in 2015, according to Canadian Business magazine.

He 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 last year.