By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Peter Nygard and his US attorneys yesterday slammed as “absurd” any claims that his dealings with the Christie administration have been improper.
Responding to a series of Tribune Business questions, the Canadian fashion mogul’s attorney, Aaron H. Marks, accused counsel for ‘whistleblower’ Stephen Feralio of “mischaracterising” the video footage possessed by his client.
Again refuting allegations that his client was seeking to construct a stem cell facility at his Nygard Cay home, Mr Marks said Mr Nygard saw it as his “civic duty” to become involved in Bahamian political processes.
Responding to assertions by Mr Feralio’s attorney that several videos “memorialised” his client donating funds to Bahamian politicians, Mr Marks agreed it was “no secret” that Mr Nygard had supported the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) successful general election campaign.
He slammed criticisms of Mr Nygard for doing so as “hypocritical”, alleging that his main ‘enemy’ and immediate Lyford Cay neighbour, Louis Bacon, had done likewise by financially supporting the Free National Movement (FNM).
Mr Bacon, though, has never publicly confirmed that he is an FNM supporter or donor, so that allegation currently remains unproven.
However, Mr Nygard and his main US attorney left little doubt as to their position over suggestions by Mr Feralio, and Mr Bacon and the Save the Bays environmental group, that his dealings with the current administration have somehow been untoward.
“Mr Feralio’s allegations that his video tapes prove that Mr Nygard’s interactions with the Perry Christie administration were improper are absurd,” Mr Marks blasted, in an e-mailed response to Tribune Business’s questions.
“We have reviewed this footage and have found it completely mischaracterised. These videos show various meetings between Mr Nygard and government officials, including the Prime Minister, taking tours of Nygard Cay and Nygard International’s world headquarters in New York.”
Mr Marks was responding after Stephen Feldman, Mr Feralio’s US counsel, told the southern New York district court in a December 12 letter that 31 video particular video files were covered by the terms of a subpoena granted to Mr Bacon and Save the Bays.
Mr Feldman alleged that the videos’ content included “Peter Nygard’s meetings and interactions with Bahamian officials regarding construction at Nygard Cay”, plus footage on his efforts to construct a stem cell facilities in the Bahamas.
Both issues feature in the two Judicial Review actions launched against the Government, and Mr Nygard, by Save the Bays over the latter’s actions (inaction) over construction permits/approvals for Nygard Cay.
“But none of the videos we have reviewed have any discussion of building a stem cell facility in exchange for permits to rebuild Nygard Cay, as our opposition has charged, and none of them discusses building a stem cell facility on Nygard Cay,” Mr Marks said yesterday.
“Nygard Cay has never been considered as a location for such a facility, contrary to the falsified minutes introduced in New York court. Nygard Cay is Mr Nygard’s residence. Furthermore, these inaccurate minutes were leaked in violation of the Official Secrets Act.”
This refers to the ‘minutes’ of a meeting between Mr Nygard’s team and the Bahamas Investment Authority over his plans to rebuild Nygard Cay. The Canadian fashion mogul is alleging that a section of those ‘minutes’ has been fabricated to suggest he was seeking to build a stem cell facility at his Lyford Cay home.
As for the revelation by Mr Feralio’s attorney that some of the 31 disputed videos show donations by Mr Nygard to Bahamian politicians, Mr Marks responded: “It is no secret that Mr Nygard supported the 2012 election campaign of the PLP, just as Mr Bacon contributes generously to the opposition FNM party.
“As a resident of the Bahamas since the early 1980s, Mr Nygard believes it is his civic duty to engage in the political process, and that it is hypocritical of Mr Bacon to criticise him for doing so in light of his own political contributions.”
Mr Bacon, as mentioned earlier, has never identified himself as an FNM supporter, and the US attorneys representing both the hedge fund magnate and Save the Bays have dismissed previous allegations by Mr Nygard that their action is politically motivated.
Orin Snyder, an attorney for the Gibson Dunn law firm, in a previous letter to the New York court, said: “Without a shred of evidence, Nygard also proclaims that petitioners [Save the Bays and Mr Bacon] seek to delay the Judicial Review actions for imagined political reasons.
“The claim is a fiction, contradicted by the evidence, and defies all logic.”
Mr Snyder added: “Nygard’s other inflammatory statements about Mr Bacon’s supposed political influence and motives are unsubstantiated, outrageous and intended for a different audience.
“They read like the rantings one might find on a partisan blog, rather than a letter to this honourable court.
Mr Marks, meanwhile, repeated his client’s contention that Mr Bacon and Save the Bays were using the Judicial Review action as a “stalling” tactic to prevent Mr Nygard from rebuilding his Lyford Cay home, which was destroyed by fire some five years ago.
“Mr. Bacon is trying to thwart reconstruction of Mr Nygard’s home by stalling the Judicial Review process,” Mr Marks alleged.
“As long as these actions are under consideration, Mr Nygard cannot rebuild. So Mr Bacon is trying to stall government consideration of Mr Nygard’s permit applications until the next election, when Mr Bacon believes his FNM party will take over the Government and block the construction.”
These claims, again, have already been refuted on Mr Bacon and Save the Bays’ behalf, Mr Snyder having told the New York courts that the Judicial Review actions will be completed long before the next general election, which is anticipated in 2017.
A spokesperson for Mr Nygard subsequently took issue with assertions by Mr Snyder, reported yesterday by Tribune Business, that it was the Government and Mr Nygard who were delaying the Judicial Reviews by “refusing to produce documents”.
The spokesperson added: “This is not an accurate statement. Mr Nygard is not subject to any order or obligation at law to produce any documents whatsoever. Any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.”
Elsewhere, Mr Marks also argued that the disputed 31 videos were “redundant”, as they contained content already produced, and therefore reviewing them was “unnecessarily burdensome”.
The New York court did not agree, but Mr Marks said it made “a far more significant ruling” on December 3, agreeing with Mr Nygard that thousands of Feralio-produced videos were not covered by the subpoena.
As previously revealed by Tribune Business, the court-ordered process requires Mr Nygard and his attorneys to review thousands of video files possessed by a former Nygard International employee turned ‘whistleblower’, Mr Feralio.
If any of these files fall within the boundaries set by a court-ordered subpoena, they have to be passed on to Mr Bacon and Save the Bays, and their legal team.
Mr Feralio possesses more than 1,000 hours of Nygard-related video footage that the Canadian’s ‘arch rival’, hedge fund magnate Mr Bacon, and the Save the Bays/Coalition to Protect Clifton environmental activist group, want to obtain access to via the subpoenas they previously obtained from Judge Cote.
They believe it could provide evidence for seven cases currently before the Supreme Court, including five defamation actions by Mr Bacon, plus the two Judicial Review proceedings launched by Save the Bays/the Coalition.
Once the New York ‘video review’ process is complete, it will be up to the Supreme Court and a Bahamian judge to decide whether they can be admitted into evidence.