13 Nov 2023

Peter Nygard: Fashion mogul guilty of sex assaults

10:50 am on 13 November 2023

By Bernd Debusmann Jr for BBC

Seen through a police vehicle window, Canadian-Finnish fashion mogul Peter Nygard leaves a courthouse in Toronto, Ontario, on September 26, 2023. Held in prison since his arrest in December 2020, Nygard, 82, is being tried for alleged sexual assaults and forcible confinement involving several people between 1987 and 2006. He faces similar charges in Quebec and Manitoba, as well as extradition to the US, where he has been accused of raping dozens of women and girls, racketeering and trafficking. (Photo by Cole BURSTON / AFP)

Seen through a police vehicle window, Canadian-Finnish fashion mogul Peter Nygard leaves a courthouse in Toronto, Ontario, on September 26, 2023. Photo: AFP / Cole Burston

A Canadian jury has found the former fashion mogul Peter Nygard guilty of sexual assault after a six-week trial.

Prosecutors told a Toronto court that Nygard, 82, used his "status" to assault five women in a series of incidents from the late 1980s to 2005.

Nygard denied the charges, and his defence team accused the victims of "gold-digging" for financial gain.

He was found not guilty on a fifth count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.

Nygard appeared to show no emotion as the verdict was handed down on the jurors' fifth day of deliberations.

According to prosecutors, Nygard lured the women - aged 16 to 28 at the time - to a private luxury bedroom in his firm's Toronto headquarters.

One prosecutor, Ana Serban, described the room as having "a giant bed ... and a bar and doors, doors with no handles and automatic locks controlled by Peter Nygard".

Serban alleged that Nygard would assault the women once they were trapped in the room.

During closing arguments earlier this week, Crown prosecutors and Nygard's defence team painted dramatically different pictures of the man who once hobnobbed with celebrities and stood at the helm of a lucrative global apparel empire.

His lawyer Brian Greenspan told jurors that the state's case rested on "revisionist history" built on "contradictions and innuendo", Canadian media reported.

He also claimed that four of the five women - who are also part of a US class action lawsuit - were motivated by financial gain.

"Gold-digging runs deep," he said.

Over five days of tense testimony and cross-examination earlier in the trial, Nygard said he could never have acted "in that kind of manner" and that he did not recall four of the five women, according to CBC.

Prosecutors relied heavily on the evidence of the women in court.

Serban said that the jury "should have no difficulty" finding Nygard guilty and that the women's evidence described "the same space and same behaviour" from the former mogul, CTV reported.

"It defies coincidence," she said.

Nygard - who was once estimated to be worth US$700m (NZ$1186m) - is still facing another trial in Montreal next year and assault and confinement charges in Winnipeg.

Once his criminal cases in Canada are completed, he is set to be extradited to the US, where authorities claim he engaged in a "decades-long pattern of criminal conduct" involving at least a dozen victims across the globe. He is currently fighting that extradition.

The guilty verdicts on Sunday cap a stunning fall from grace for Nygard, who was once well-known for hosting celebrities and politicians at his swanky properties.

In February 2020, he stepped down as chairman of his firm, Nygard International, shortly before it filed for bankruptcy after US authorities raided its New York headquarters.

He has been jailed since his arrest in December the same year.

- This story was first published by BBC.

Where to get help:

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496