Content warning: The following post contains depictions of physical & sexual violence.
UPDATE: On Feb. 25, Peter Nygard’s spokesperson announced in a statement that the fashion designer is stepping down from his company. The statement was made hours after the FBI searched his New York office. (It’s not clear the exact purpose of the search.) Through his rep, Nygard did not admit to any wrongdoing, instead blaming the allegations on his long-standing legal feud with Louis Bacon, his neighbour in the Bahamas. “Peter Nygard has decided that his legal battles with Louis Bacon will no longer be a distraction to the [Nygard] companies,” read the statement. Since the story broke earlier this month, lawyers representing the women behind the class action suit against Peter Nygard say they have received “information from over 100 witnesses, including dozens of victims, who have come forward with additional evidence relating to alleged rape and sexual abuse.”
Original story follows.
Last week, Finnish-Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was named in a civil class-action lawsuit in which 10 women allege they were lured, bribed, and sexually assaulted by Nygard at his mansion in the Bahamas. Among the most-shocking allegations are that Nygard drugged and raped his victims (many of whom were 14 and 15 at the time), and that he maintained a database of over 7,500 girls and women. Here, everything you need to know about the man people are calling “Canada’s Jeffrey Epstein,” the Prince Andrew connection, and whether criminal charges against Nygard are likely to follow.
Who is Peter Nygard?
Once described by Vanity Fair as “something like the Hugh Heffner of down-market retail,” Nygard is a 78-year-old fashion executive. His parents immigrated to Manitoba, Canada from Finland when he was a child. At 24, he used his life savings and a loan to invest $8,000 in a clothing manufacturing company. Today Nygard International does hundreds of millions of annual sales at department and standalone stores around the world, including multiple locations in Canada.
Nygard himself is worth over $800 million, (£466m) and was the 70th richest man in Canada in 2009. Accordingly, his lifestyle includes private jets (The PETER NYGARD N FORCE reportedly had a stripper pole inside), at least one celebrity ex–girlfriend (he dated model Anna Nicole Smith before her death), and properties around the world. His private party palace in the Bahamas — featuring giant statues of naked women — was showcased on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and is where most of the crimes laid out in the lawsuit allegedly took place between 2008 and 2015.
What are the charges against Nygard? And why are we only hearing about them now?
In the civil lawsuit filed last Thursday in New York, 10 women (unnamed based on safety and privacy concerns) accused Nygard of rape and running a “sex-trafficking ring.” Three of the victims were 14 years old at the time of the alleged assaults, while another three were 15. Per the allegations, Nygard was known for his “pamper parties,” bacchanalian benders at his Bahamas estate, where young women and girls (often impoverished women from the surrounding areas) were recruited and lured to attend, often with false promises of modelling opportunities with Nygard’s company. They were (per the suit) given drugs and alcohol and then asked and/or forced to perform a variety of sex acts. One woman, who was 15 at the time, claims Nygard attempted to sodomise her, before raping her and asking her to defecate in his mouth. The lawsuit further alleges that Nygard maintained a database of over 7,500 girls and women.
Two other civil lawsuits were filed last month in Los Angeles (where Nygard also has a home). The first plaintiff says she was a minor when Nygard had sex with her and would not allow her to leave his home. A second was filed by a woman who used to work for Nygard and claims he sexually harassed and assaulted her multiple times, as well as required her to source women for the aforementioned pamper parties. The woman says she left her job, because she wasn’t comfortable being “a madam.”
It is unclear why these allegations are coming to light now, though the class action lawsuit alleges that Nygard has been bribing law enforcement in the Bahamas as a way of concealing his crimes. Reports on Nygard’s disturbing history with girls and women date back to at least 1980, when the Winnipeg Free Press reported rape allegations against Nygard involving an 18-year-old woman. (Those charges were later dropped when the complainant refused to testify.) In the 1990s, he settled three harassment claims from former employees out of court in Manitoba. In 2008, he settled with an ex-girlfriend who sued him for slamming her hand in a door. The pamper parties referenced in the lawsuit were also common knowledge and referenced in this 2015 Vanity Fair story, though there is no mention of underage attendees.
Has Nygard responded to the allegations?
Through his lawyer, Nygard has denied all allegations “vigorously,” calling the accusations “completely false [and] without foundation.” Moreover, he says the whole thing is a setup by his longstanding nemesis Louis Bacon, a billionaire and Nygard’s neighbour in the Bahamas. The two men have engaged in a decade-long battle that started over a shared road, and has gone on to involve millions of dollars, lawsuits, and counter lawsuits, and allegations of vandalism, bribery, insider trading, murder, and more. In 2018, the Bahamas Supreme Court seized Nygard’s property based on his failure to comply with instructions banning illegal dredging of the sea floor. In November, Nygard filed court papers in New York claiming a massive conspiracy in which Bacon was bribing women to make false claims against him.
Why are there no criminal charges against Nygard?
The Bahamian police have been investigating allegations against Nygard since July 2019, when four women (all of whom are now involved in the civil class action suit) reported Nygard’s alleged sexual crimes. It is unclear if charges will be laid. The investigation is ongoing. In a statement on Feb. 17, Bahamas National Security Adviser Marvin Dames said police will also look into the allegations of bribery of law enforcement.
What does Jeffrey Epstein have to do with this?
For obvious reasons (the underage victims, the sex-trafficking allegations, the island parties) people are comparing Nygard to the American financier and convicted sex offender who died in jail last year while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges. The similarities are pretty jarring: While Nygard (allegedly) had his pamper parties, Epstein’s tropical getaway where many of his crimes occurred was known as “pedophile island.” And (as we learned over the weekend), Nygard, like Epstein, has some kind of connection with Prince Andrew.
How is Prince Andrew involved with Nygard?
Multiple media outlets report that the Queen’s favourite son spent time on Nygard’s estate (along with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie) in 2000. At this point, Prince Andrew is not known to have any knowledge of Nygard’s criminal activity, though certainly the link to another alleged sexual predator will cause further embarrassment for the royal family.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
This story was originally published on Feb. 18, 2020.
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