WINNIPEG — A Canadian fashion leader facing sex trafficking and racketeering charges in the United States will remain in jail after an unsuccessful attempt to appeal an earlier ruling that denied him bail.
The decision released Friday said Peter Nygard's detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice, especially given the extreme nature and scope of the allegations.
Justice Jennifer Pfuetzner of the Manitoba Court of Appeal wrote the allegations “paint a picture of criminal conduct that was planned, financed and executed on a staggering scale.”
Nygard was arrested in December under the Extradition Act and faces nine counts in the Southern District of New York.
Authorities there accuse the 79-year-old of using his influence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls with the promise of modelling and other financial opportunities.
Justice Shawn Greenberg first denied Nygard's bail in February, citing concerns that he would contact witnesses if released.
Nygard’s lawyers presented an augmented release plan during an appeal hearing last week. It included monitoring all emails and text messages.
The plan, as told to court, also involved an in-home security guard and 24-hour video surveillance.
Defence lawyer Brian Greenspan told court his client denied all the allegations and posed no risk if released.
He said Nygard’s health was rapidly deteriorating behind bars and he would be at significant risk if he contracted COVID-19.
Federal prosecutors argued that Nygard has the finances and personnel available to assist him in obstructing justice.
Pfuetzner said the new bail plan did not materially address the flaws that the original judge was concerned about.
"The application judge was rightly concerned that others would act on behalf of the respondent to contact witnesses and victims.”
Court has heard that Nygard is kept alone in a cell meant for three prisoners at Headingley Correction Centre outside Winnipeg. There is a television and phone in the cell and he has access to a diet for diabetics.
A formal extradition request from the U.S. was received by Canadian authorities in February. It details the accounts of seven alleged victims who are expected to testify in a criminal trial in that country.
There is a publication ban on any information that could identify the complainants or witnesses.
The women allege their livelihoods and their movements became dependent on having sex with Nygard. They say it was coerced through financial means or physical force.
U.S. prosecutors have said text messages and emails support the allegations.
Justice Canada said in an email that a pretrial hearing for the extradition case is scheduled for next month.
Nygard is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. involving 57 women with similar allegations.
Co-counsel in that suit, Greg Gutzler, said keeping Nygard locked up was the right decision.
"Nygard and his accomplices have an established track record of subverting justice by intimidating and tampering with witnesses," Gutzler said.
Nygard founded his fashion company in Winnipeg in 1967. It grew from a partial stake in a women's garment manufacturer to a brand name sold in stores around the world.
Nygard stepped down as chairman of his company after the FBI and police raided his offices in New York City in February 2020.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2021
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press