By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A ‘whistleblower’ has alleged that Peter Nygard intervened to secure the release of his camera equipment, which had been seized by Bahamas Customs, even though he had neither paid due taxes nor possessed a valid work permit.
Stephen Feralio claimed that he was informed that the Canadian fashion mogul “had cleared everything up” when he returned to the airport “a day or two later”, where he was presented with his camera equipment.
Mr Feralio possesses more than 1,000 hours of Nygard-related video footage that the Canadian’s ‘arch rival’, Louis Bacon, and the Save the Bays/Coalition to Protect Clifton environmental activist group, want to obtain access to via subpoenas they are seeking from the New York courts.
They believe it could provide evidence for seven cases currently before the Supreme Court, including five defamation actions by Mr Bacon, and the two Judicial Review proceedings launched by Save the Bays/the Coalition over construction/development work at Nygard Cay.
Mr Nygard and his companies, though, are arguing that it should be the Bahamian Supreme Court - not the New York courts - who decide on whether Feralio and his evidence are admissible in the seven actions.
They are also asserting that Mr Feralio’s agreements with Mr Bacon effectively confirm he will be available to testify before the Bahamian courts, along with his footage.
Mr Feralio, though, alleged last week that he had “no intention” of returning to the Bahamas to testify.
He said he feared “arrest or assault”, and that the Bahamian government authorities might “confiscate” his evidence.
Mr Feralio’s affidavit, filed in the southern New York courts last Thursday, also alleges:
• That he witnessed the Bahamian “Prime Minister, other high government officials and law enforcement officials” meet Mr Nygard at his Nygard Cay home.
• That Perry Christie and Shane Gibson, minister of labour and national insurance, attended the wedding of Mr Nygard’s daughter in Winnipeg, Canada, and that the Prime Minister gave a speech at the event.
• That Feralio was asked to assign intellectual property rights to his work to Mr Nygard and his company as part of a bid to dampen criticism of the much-bashed ‘Nygard takes Bahamas back’ video.
The ‘whistleblower’ alleges that was designed to show Mr Nygard’s company “purposefully created” the video and was “proud of it”.
This strategy, though, failed to mute Bahamian public criticism, and Feralio alleged that he was eventually instructed to remove the video from the ‘Peter Nygard’ YouTube channel.
Detailing the extent of Mr Nygard’s alleged ‘influence’ in the Bahamas, Feralio cited a claimed incident where Customs “held up” his camera equipment bag because he did not have a valid work permit.
“I was told I needed either a work permit or to pay tax on the equipment,” Feralio alleged. “When I arrived at Nygard Cay, I reported that my bag had been held up.
“When I returned to the airport a day or two later, I was told that Nygard had cleared everything up. I was given the camera equipment without providing any work permit or paying any tax.”
He then claimed: “I am fearful of returning to the Bahamas, have no intention to return to the Bahamas, and would feel threatened if I did. I have witnessed first-hand the way Peter Nygard cultivates close relationships with, and influences, high-powered people in the Bahamas.
“I witnessed Peter Nygard meet with the Prime Minister, other high government officials and law enforcement officials at Nygard Cay.
“On another occasion, Perry Christie, the current Prime Minister, and David Shane Gibson, a member of Parliament and... government minister, attended the wedding of Peter Nygard’s daughter in Winnipeg, Canada, where Perry Christie gave a speech,” Feralio further claimed.
“At this point, given what I have seen and experienced, I would not return to the Bahamas. I fear that if I return to the Bahamas, I may be subjected to arrest or assault, and that my evidence could be stolen or confiscated by the authorities. I am unwilling to jeopardise my physical safety in this way.”
Tribune Business attempted to obtain comment and a response from Mr Nygard’s New York-based public relations people on Feralio’s latest allegations, but none was received before press time despite e-mails and phone calls being sent.
Regardless of whether Feralio’s claims are true, they do little to enhance the Bahamas’ reputation as a leading destination for tourism, foreign direct investment (FDI) and second homeowners.
The Bacon/Nygard battle is now playing out in the international media, with the allegations flying between the pair widely-covered in recent editions of the New York Post and the London Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, Feralio alleged that he assigned intellectual property rights to his work to Mr Nygard’s companies as part of a bid to dampen criticism of the now-notorious ‘Nygard takes Bahamas back’ video.
Feralio claimed that he “created and uploaded” the video to a ‘Peter Nygard-related You Tube channel’. The video, which records Mr Nygard celebrating the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) 2012 general election victory with the comment, ‘Yes. We got our country bacl’, was much-slated in the Bahamas.
The video subsequently showed six newly-appointed Cabinet ministers meeting with Mr Nygard in the election’s immediate aftermath, and Feralio said: “Following the release of the video, there was significant criticism of Peter Nygard and the new government officials for their apparent close relationship.
“I was told by Tiina Tulikorpi, a human resources official with Nygard International, that to respond to that criticism I should sign the Intellectual Property Assignment agreement, which would demonstrate that Nygard International purposefully created the ‘Nygard takes back the Bahamas’ video, and was therefore proud of its content (these was some conjecture that this was an unauthorised video).
“Accordingly, I signed the Intellectual Property Assignment agreement but did not intend to cede any additional rights to my work product. The strategy did not dull the criticism of the video, and eventually I was directed by Tiina Tulikorpi to take the ‘Nygard takes back the Bahamas’ video down from the ‘Peter Nygard’ YouTube channel, and I did so.”