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Editorial: Nygard Lawsuit Shows Our Failings As A Nation

THE allegations against Peter Nygard are horrendous.

Page after page of allegations including the rape of ten women, a number of them underage, and even the alleged kidnap of one of those women by his staff.

The allegations go back years – and while the accusations of what he is alleged to have done to the women are vile, they are by no means the limit of what he is accused of in the lawsuit filed in New York yesterday.

He is alleged to have paid sizeable amounts of money to police officers who, it is claimed, would help him bury any reports of sexual abuse, and threaten to arrest and otherwise harass his victims to ensure their silence. Who could the victims turn to if police officers were showing up at the door warning them of the consequences of coming forward?

Beyond that, the lawsuit details allegations of bribery of Bahamian officials, including some of the highest PLP politicians in the land. It is even alleged that he provided PLP party members and corrupt police officers with children and young women to have sex with. “Commercial sex acts” they are called. Money for sex, in other words.

It is alleged that he did this to gain influence as well as to gain compromising information about them in order to exert his influence over them.

Mr Nygard allegedly kept a database of potential victims with information on more than 7,500 underage girls and women in it. He would allegedly have staff photograph attendees at his “pamper parties” and then point out from the photographs which women he wanted. He would reportedly sit in his bedroom, looking through photographs of who was in attendance, selecting his potential victims for the night. 7,500 women – how many of us know someone who was or could have been a victim?

The detail is shocking, but the fact of allegations swirling around Peter Nygard is unsurprising. Year after year, he has been surrounded with claims of abhorrent behaviour – from ignoring the laws of the land to build up his Nygard Cay beaches to court documents alleging he had hired hitmen, claims put forward by criminals who went by the names of Toogie and Bobo and who were recorded on tape talking to Mr Nygard.

Public accusations have also been made over payments to politicians previously – Shane Gibson admitted receiving $94,131.10 from Peter Nygard after being shown documents by The Tribune, paid to a US account held by Mr Gibson, but said it was a campaign contribution for the 2012 general election and money for scholarships in Mr Gibson’s constituency. In 2017, Mr Gibson told The Tribune that he thought it was “sad and unfortunate that those who oppose me would seek to tarnish something that has benefited so many people in my constituency simply to grab headlines and win a seat”.

Mr Gibson and many other PLP MPs were seen in a video with Mr Nygard after the 2012 election during a visit to Nygard Cay, at a time when Mr Nygard posted a celebratory video about the PLP’s victory, boasting of taking The Bahamas back. To where? From whom?

Mr Nygard has also been involved in lengthy court battles over his property in The Bahamas – with court date after court date as the case stretched out over years.

This latest round of allegations in court papers raise many questions – not just over his own actions but of those employees who helped to facilitate his allegedly predatory actions and also the actions of those he is alleged to have bribed. If true, what did they do for the money they received? Who were they serving? Peter Nygard? Or The Bahamas?

The simple truth about this lawsuit is that these accusations should not only be tested in far-off New York. The claims, if true, detail a pattern of bribery by a man who does what he wants and pays to cover the consequences, no matter how extreme his actions are. If the claims in this lawsuit are true, this is a cesspit of corruption that must be cleared up. With claims of bribery against police, politicians and payments to victims and allegations of staff helping to lure in young women and tidy up after the crime, there are dozens if not hundreds of witnesses to his actions. There should be a criminal investigation launched here in The Bahamas today.

And what of the six rape allegations made against Mr Nygard here in The Bahamas last year? In November, we reported that police were investigating claims of six women who said Mr Nygard raped them when they were all under 16. What is the status of those investigations? We must ask ourselves why these allegations raised in The Bahamas have not progressed further – and whether this lawsuit in the US suggests a lack of faith on the part of the victims in finding justice on our shores.

In fact, beyond the individual criminal investigations, given the extent of the alleged bribery, a full Commission of Inquiry should be called in order to publicly sift through the allegations. Clear the names of those who are innocent of accusations, but hold to account those who are complicit in taking money to look the other way. Find those police officers alleged to have acted as enforcers for him and haul them before the courts if there is evidence. Demand of politicians what they did for money they were given – with full receipts.

The FNM are not spared either – one of the reasons that payments can be made is that there are no campaign finance laws. The FNM promised those on the campaign trail but have failed to deliver so far. That needs to change, and the claims against Peter Nygard show just how urgently that needs to change. What is to stop him paying more people in an attempt to give him a better outcome in the courts under the next government?

Peter Nygard’s story – if proved to be true– is one that will shock and appall with the nature of the alleged offences, but it will be even worse if we allow these claims to play out in New York while sitting here doing nothing, pretending it’s nothing to do with us.

It’s time to act.

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