Canadian Fashion Mogul Peter Nygard Indicted on Sex-Trafficking Charges

Peter Nygard, the Canadian fashion executive, has been charged with sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other crimes that involved dozens of women and teenage girls in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Tuesday.

Mr. Nygard, 79, used his company’s influence, its money and its employees to recruit adult and “minor-aged female victims” over a 25-year period for the sexual gratification of him and his associates, according to a nine-count federal indictment. He was arrested in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Monday at the request of the United States under an extradition treaty, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

The women Mr. Nygard is accused of targeting often came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and, in some cases, had a history of abuse. Mr. Nygard sexually assaulted some of them, while others were assaulted or drugged by his associates “to ensure their compliance with Nygard’s sexual demands,” the indictment said.

Mr. Nygard’s lawyer in New York, Elkan Abramowitz, declined to comment on the charges. Jay Prober, his lawyer in Winnipeg, vehemently denied the charges against his client. He said Mr. Nygard, now being held in a Manitoba jail, expected to be vindicated.

In February, The New York Times detailed how a long, ugly feud between Mr. Nygard and his billionaire neighbor in the Bahamas had led to a lawsuit accusing Mr. Nygard of sexually assaulting minors there. Interviews with dozens of women and former employees described how alleged victims were lured to Mr. Nygard’s Bahamian home. The article documented a pattern of complaints about him stretching back 40 years and showed how he had used his money and threats to silence alleged victims.

The indictment features some of the same allegations as the lawsuit, filed in New York in February. More than 80 women, from the Bahamas to Denmark, have signed on as plaintiffs.

April Telek, 47, a Canadian actress, said she was raped and held against her will by Mr. Nygard in 1993, after she reported for a modeling job. She has given a statement to Winnipeg police and is a part of the lawsuit. She said she had not been contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“This is the best — the best thing that could possibly have happened for me, and for so many of the women that he has caused terror for over the years,” Ms. Telek said. She added, “It feels like Christmas morning.”

For decades, Mr. Nygard portrayed himself as a playboy, describing the young women he surrounded himself with as “the source of youth,” according to a video he produced about his attempts to fight aging. Born in Finland, he grew up in Canada, launching his multinational fashion company, Nygard International, in Winnipeg more than 50 years ago.

Mr. Nygard was brought into a Canadian courtroom Tuesday afternoon in chains around his wrists and ankles.

He was ordered held pending further court proceedings. A bail hearing was scheduled for Jan. 13, but Mr. Prober, his lawyer, said he planned to seek such a hearing as early as next week. Although Canadian courts usually grant extradition to the United States, the process can take years.

Mr. Nygard divided his time between Canada, the United States and the Bahamas, where he built a sprawling, Mayan-themed compound with sculptures of animal predators and naked women that he described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The indictment charged that Mr. Nygard used the prospect of modeling and other fashion industry jobs to lure women and teenage girls. It said that he also he used money from his company to pay for so-called pamper parties in Los Angeles and the Bahamas that featured free drinks, manicures and massages.

He forced dozens of victims to engage in “commercial sex,” defined in federal law as any sex act performed in exchange for something of value, and used threats and promises to grant or withhold modeling opportunities or financial support to maintain control over them, the indictment said.

Nygard International, a privately held company that once employed 12,000 people, is known mainly for selling leggings and flowing tops to middle-age women through its own outlets and department stores in Canada and the United States.

Mr. Nygard, estimated to be worth roughly $750 million in 2014 by Canadian Business magazine, was known for blending his professional and personal lives. A 1980 news article described an area of his Winnipeg office as a “passion pit” with a mirrored ceiling and a couch that transformed into a bed at the “push of a button.”

Mr. Nygard stepped down from his company in February, after federal authorities raided his home in Los Angeles and corporate headquarters in New York, and major customers like the department store chain Dillard’s dropped his fashion lines. The Times reported that month that the raids were part of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault that had been underway for at least five months.

In March, the company filed for bankruptcy in Canada and in the United States.

William K. Rashbaum and Kim Wheeler contributed reporting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *