Prosecutors say a Canadian fashion leader charged with sex trafficking and extortion in the US could use former employees to contact victims if he is released from prison.
Peter Nygard, 79, is appealing a Winnipeg judge’s decision last month to deny him bail. The judge cited concerns that he would contact witnesses if he was released.
“Nygard has staff to help him obstruct justice,” said Scott Farlinger, attorney for the Canadian Attorney General, in court on Thursday.
Nygard’s attorneys came up with an expanded release plan that they believe addresses all concerns and includes monitoring of all email and text messages.
Arrested under the extradition law in December, Nygard faces nine charges in the southern borough of New York.
A formal extradition request from the United States was received by the Canadian authorities in February. It provides more details on allegations that Nygard used his influence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls with promises of modeling and other financial opportunities.
Documents presented in court by American prosecutors provide details of reports from seven victims expected to testify in criminal proceedings in that country.
There is a ban on disclosure of information that could identify victims or witnesses.
The women say that their livelihood and exercise depend on having sex with the fashion mogul.
Some say sex was originally consensual but was forced through financial means or physical violence.
American prosecutors said text messages and emails support the allegations.
“PEOPLE IN MY LIFE will ALWAYS benefit IF and if they bring a real benefit – had you delivered a ‘BEAUTIFUL ANGEL’ – it would of course have been a good benefit,” wrote Nygard in an email included in court documents.
The Justice Secretary ordered extradition to proceed on the basis of relevant Canadian human trafficking charges earlier this month.
Defense attorney Brian Greenspan said his client denied all allegations and would pose no risk if released.
Nygard visited the court by phone from the Headingley Correctional Center outside of Winnipeg. He is being held alone in a cell for three prisoners, the court heard. There is a television and a phone in his cell, and he has access to a diabetic diet.
Greenspan told the court that his client’s health was deteriorating rapidly behind bars and that he would be at significant risk if he contracted COVID-19.
“This is a nearly 80-year-old man who has a number of risk factors to his health,” Greenspan said.
Defense attorneys argued that when Judge Shawn Greenberg refused Nygard’s bail, “wrongly criticized the release plan”.
That plan, the court was told, included a home security guard and 24-hour video surveillance to monitor Nygard in case he was released.
Greenberg also had serious problems with the house, which a former employee Nygard offered as a place to stay when he was released. It was bought with Nygard’s own money.
Court heard Thursday that Nygard had also reached out to a daughter who lives in Manitoba in January to ensure his release.
Zanaya Wilson, 20, later told RCMP that Nygard called her from prison and asked her to tell the court that she would make sure he didn’t break bail.
Nygard also asked her to sign a document stating that she believed in her father’s innocence.
In return, Nygard would give her a million dollar home and legally recognize her as his child. Wilson was brought to Canada by Nygard from the Bahamas to work for his company.
“As soon as he was released from prison, he signed an affidavit confirming that he was her father to help her obtain Canadian citizenship,” court documents read.
The court heard that Nygard’s lawyers had advised him to find a family who could help with the bail plan. But he was not instructed to exchange it for help with her citizenship.
Judge Jennifer Pfuetzner of the Manitoba Court of Appeal has reserved her decision for a later date.
Nygard is also the subject of a class action lawsuit in the United States involving 57 women on similar allegations.
He resigned as chairman of his firm after the FBI and police raided his New York City offices in February 2020.