The fashion mogul Peter Nygård has been arrested in Canada after US authorities charged him with with racketeering and sex trafficking, alleging decades of crimes that left dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada.
Nygård, 79, was arrested in Winnipeg under the Extradition Act on Monday and made an initial appearance in court on Tuesday. He wore a white face mask, a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, with his long white hair pulled back in a bun. He has denied wrongdoing.
The acting US attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said Nygård had since 1995 used his influence and businesses to “recruit and maintain” victims in the US, Canada and the Bahamas to sexually gratify himself and his associates.
Authorities said that victims were assaulted by Nygård or his associates, with some drugged to ensure they met his sexual demands, and that Nygård often targeted victims who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or had suffered abuse.
The nine-count indictment said Nygård used multiple means to recruit victims.
These allegedly included company-funded “Pamper Parties” named for their free food, drink and spa services, and held at his properties in Marina del Rey in California and the Bahamas.
The indictment said Nygård took some victims – he called them “girlfriends” – to swingers clubs where they would be intimidated into having sex with other men, “to facilitate Nygård having sex with other women and for his own sexual gratification”.
Nygård also used threats of arrest, reputational harm and lawsuits to silence potential accusers, the indictment said.
Early this year the FBI searched the designer’s Times Square offices, less than two weeks after 10 women filed a civil lawsuit accusing Nygård of enticing young and impoverished women to his estate in the Bahamas with cash and promises of modeling opportunities.
Several plaintiffs in the suit said they were 14 or 15 years old when Nygård gave them alcohol or drugs and then raped them.
Fifty-seven women – including 18 Canadians – have joined that lawsuit, which alleges that Nygård used violence, intimidation, bribery and company employees to lure victims and avoid accountability for decades. Nygård has denied all allegations.
Born in Finland, Nygård grew up in Manitoba, eventually running his own namesake clothing companies and becoming one of Canada’s wealthiest people.
The class-action lawsuit says Nygård used his company, bribery of Bahamian officials and “considerable influence in the fashion industry” to recruit victims in the Bahamas, US and Canada.
It alleges he plied the young women with drugs and alcohol during “pamper parties” and kept a database on a corporate server containing the names of thousands of potential victims.
Nygård’s victims would have their passports taken from them when they were flown into the Bahamas, the lawsuit alleges, adding the designer “expected a sex act before he was willing to consider releasing any person” from his estate.
A spokesman for Nygård said earlier this year he was stepping down as chairman of Nygård companies and would divest his ownership interest.