Peter Nygard, Disgraced Fashion Designer, Faces Trial in Toronto

Prosecutors in Canada began laying out their case on Tuesday in a Toronto courtroom against Peter Nygard, the founder of a fashion empire, two years after he was charged with sex crimes by Canadian police.

Mr. Nygard, 82, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement involving five women in accusations that date back as far as the 1980s.

Prosecutors described a bedroom suite in Mr. Nygard’s Toronto headquarters that they said was used to abuse victims.

“It has a giant bed and a stone Jacuzzi, with a bar and doors, doors with no handles and a keypad-operated lock, controlled by Peter Nygard,” one prosecutor, Ana Serban, told the jury.

Mr. Nygard, prosecutors said, often played pornography on a television in the room.

Mr. Nygard has denied the allegations through his lawyers’ statements to the media. His defense team had yet to offer its opening statement.

The women whom prosecutors say Mr. Nygard abused are expected to testify, though their identities will be hidden by court-imposed publication bans to protect victims of sexual assault.

Mr. Nygard was once one of the most notable names in the fashion world, who had luxury homes, a private jet and hosted parties after the Academy Award ceremony before his business and his reputation crumbled in the face of mounting accusations that he used his wealth and fame to abuse multiple women.

The case in Toronto is the first trying Mr. Nygard on the many sexual assault accusations he faces.

In December 2020, federal prosecutors in Manhattan — where Mr. Nygard’s company had offices and a store near Times Square — charged him with sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other crimes in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas.

The nine-count indictment accuses Mr. Nygard of wielding his company’s influence and finances over 25 years to recruit “minor-aged female victims” and adults who were sometimes assaulted or drugged by his associates “to ensure their compliance with Nygard’s sexual demands.”

Mr. Nygard was arrested at his home in Winnipeg, the capital of the province of Manitoba, where he founded Nygard International, his fashion company, more than five decades ago. His arrest came at the request of the United States under an extradition treaty.

A Canadian judge denied his bail in February 2021. Nine months later, he was charged by the Toronto police.

In March 2022, David Lametti, Canada’s justice minister at the time, ordered Mr. Nygard’s extradition, “but only after current criminal charges in Canada have been addressed,” he said in a statement posted to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

Mr. Nygard appealed his extradition order, citing poor health. He has complained of weight loss, fainting, and falling ill from prison food. He arrived in court on Tuesday in a wheelchair.

In Winnipeg, the city’s police service filed criminal charges of sexual assault and unlawful confinement against Mr. Nygard in July. It came three years after they began investigating accusations that he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman in 1993 at the company’s Winnipeg headquarters.

Mr. Nygard is also scheduled to stand trial in Montreal next June on one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.

Mr. Nygard used his company’s resources, from its money to its employees, to target victims who were sometimes from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or had a history of being abused, American prosecutors said in the indictment in New York.

Before the criminal charges, Mr. Nygard also used his wealth and threats to squelch sexual abuse complaints leveled against him in civil lawsuits spanning four decades, a Times investigation found.

The image he cultivated as a jet-setting playboy millionaire who was often in the company of an entourage of women began to shatter in the wake of lawsuits filed by a neighbor in the Bahamas, Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire who feuded with Mr. Nygard for about two decades.

In a lawsuit, Mr. Bacon accused Mr. Nygard of raping teenage girls in the Bahamas.

What began as a neighborhood squabble between wealthy men “escalated into an all-out effort by Nygard to destroy Bacon,” a New York State judge wrote in a May defamation case ruling, awarding $203 million in damages to Mr. Bacon.

Mr. Nygard falsely claimed that Mr. Bacon had participated in insider trading and was a member of a white supremacist group, among other accusations, and spent $15 million of his own money “to spread the malicious falsehoods,” the judge wrote.

Mr. Nygard has appealed the judge’s ruling.

Susan Beachy contributed research.

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