A LAWYER for the Attorney General of Canada said yesterday former fashion mogul Peter Nygard can’t be trusted not to flee the country if he’s released on bail, and slammed a release plan put forward by defence lawyers as “utterly brazen and cynical.”
Scott Farlinger urged Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg not to grant Nygard’s bail application, after defence lawyers argued the 79-year-old must be released due to health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“The COVID situation is not a get out of jail free card,” Farlinger told court yesterday, the second day of a two-day bail hearing for Nygard.
Nygard has been in custody since he was arrested at a home in Winnipeg on December 14. He’s awaiting extradition to the US for allegations he sexually assaulted dozens of women and girls over a 25-year period.
Farlinger argued the risk to Nygard from COVID-19 is outweighed by the seriousness of the accusations against him in the US, and by Canada’s duty to uphold treaties related to extradition.
What’s more, he said, evidence before the court leaves it unclear how much money Nygard still has at his disposal, and there’s no guarantee he can’t access it from house arrest and use it to run.
Farlinger told court Nygard is accused of engaging in decades of predatory behaviour, using force and coercion to induce women and girls to have sex with him and others.
Investigators in the US interviewed over two dozen victims, Farlinger said, including six individuals — one of them a minor — described in a bail letter from US officials. Nygard is accused of forcible sexual assault against some victims, and using false promises of career advancement or modelling jobs to coerce others.
Nygard is also accused of using his own companies and staff to recruit, transport and pay victims, Farlinger continued, with some “in-kind” payments such as paying for abortions, medical treatments or plastic surgery.
“[There is] evidence that Mr. Nygard had his own corporation create almost an industry, which was created, basically, to feed predatory behaviour,” Farlinger said.
There are allegations staff and victims organized recruiting events called “pamper parties,” Farlinger continued, where potential victims were ranked by their physical appearances.
Nygard is also accused of restricting his victims’ movements.
“This is a pattern of conduct. This is a pattern of using machinery of the Nygard group to generate victims for these sexual offences.”
None of the allegations against Nygard has been proven in court.
Nygard appeared in court via video link from Headingley Correctional Centre and appeared to take notes during the proceedings.
His lawyer, Jay Prober, told court Tuesday leaving his client in the jail would be “nothing short of a death sentence” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Farlinger argued that the two men who came forward as sureties for Nygard — Greg Fenske and Steve Mager, both former employees of Nygard companies — were unsuitable.
He told court that the $900,000 property offered by Fenske as a surety — the same house where Nygard was living when he was arrested — was, in fact, paid for with funds belonging to Nygard. Farlinger argued that means Fenske, as a surety, “simply has no skin in the game.”
“The fact that the house … was paid for by Mr. Nygard completely negates the value of the surety,” Farlinger said. “It is an utterly brazen and cynical attempt to generate conditions that would be satisfactory for release on bail.”
He also argued that the plan put forward by the defence to monitor Nygard’s movements through motion-activated cameras and an ankle bracelet would do nothing to actually prevent Nygard from leaving the house, should he choose to do so.
“The chase is on, at that point,” Farlinger said.
Nygard has always maintained his innocence and has accused the women accusing him of lying as part of a conspiracy to tarnish his reputation.
Yesterday, his lawyer Prober reiterated his argument the defence’s plan for bail is “rock solid,” and said it would be dangerous and unfair for Nygard to remain in jail.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Justice said U.S. authorities have until Feb. 12 to make a formal request for Nygard’s extradition. Then Canada will have 30 days — until March 15 — to decide whether or not to issue an authority to proceed, which authorizes an extradition hearing.