(TORONTO)—Canadian fashion tycoon Peter Nygard was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault in Toronto on Nov. 12. Earlier, on Oct 25, Nygard took the stand in his own defense.
In 2020, numerous women accused Nygard of sex tracking and assault in Canada, the U.S. and The Bahamas. The trial in Toronto, which began on Sept. 26, specifically addresses the claims from five of the accusers, centering on alleged incidents at the Toronto office of Nygard International.
“I would have never done such an act. It’s something I would never have done,” declared the 82-year-old Nygard during his testimony.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice was filled with a diverse audience, from family members to students, watching the case unfold. Nygard, a Finnish-born mogul, established Nygard International in 1967 in Winnipeg but his standing has recently taken a precipitous fall as he confronts allegations of using his influence to victimize and prey on women, even within the confines of his own offices.
Over six weeks, the jury has heard from multiple witnesses, and Nygard himself who has pleaded not guilty to alleged incidents occurring from the 1980s to mid-2000s. The victims, shielded by Canada’s publication ban, claim they were lured to Nygard’s International office under the guise of a modeling opportunity or an invite to a fashion party.
“Nygard frequently targeted women and minor-aged girls who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and who had a history of abuse. Nygard maintained control over his victims through threats, promises to grant or withhold modeling opportunities and other career advancements,” the indictment alleges.
As Nygard took the stand, his defense attorney Brian Greenspan painted a picture of his life, delving into the mogul’s roots and his family’s journey from Finland to Canada. Nygard explained the sacrifice his parents made, recounting how they had to forsake everything they knew for a fresh start in Canada. Nygard recalled details from the immigrant processes saying his family had to “leave everything they had behind in Finland.”
Arriving in Canada as a young boy from Finland, Nygard spoke no English until he attended grade school in Winnipeg, he said. Beyond the challenges of acclimatizing to a new culture, Nygard told the court he was always ambitious. “I was a workaholic, ever since I grew up. I grew up to be a workaholic by necessity. We had to work to survive. We worked all day.”
Justice Robert Goldstein urged the jury to consider all evidence with an open mind, reminding them of their role as judges of the facts.
The alleged assaults all transpired at 1 Niagara Street, the 24,000-square-foot building which has served as Nygard’s Toronto headquarters since 1984. The top-floor bedroom suite was where the alleged assaults transpired.
The suite was situated in close proximity to Nygard’s office, seamlessly integrated into a mirrored wall design accessible only through a control panel located near the bed. Nygard explained the door featured mirrored surfaces on both sides, facilitating easy access to both spaces. The security code, set at “1-2-3-4,” was intended for safety measures, with Nygard emphasizing, “under no circumstance could you ever get locked in there.”
The prosecutor described the suite as equipped with a sizable bed, a Jacuzzi, a fully stocked bar, several TVs displaying pornographic content and mirrored doors without handles.
Nygard said the suite’s design was devoid of any malicious intent, rather it adhered to a consistent architectural theme extended across all his properties, including those in The Bahamas and Marina Del Rey, California. The design philosophy was explained as “part of the Nygard design reflecting the feeling of Finland and my heritage. Nature, plants, rocks, and the outdoorsy type of feeling.”
The prosecution claimed Nygard used his power and status to lure young women wanting to kick-start their careers in the fashion industry. “No. I would have never done such an act. It’s something I would never have done,” Nygard told the court.
Nygard showed no emotion when he was found guilty on the four counts of sexual assault in Toronto. He is facing charges of sexual assault and forcible confinement in Mantioba and Quebec. The legal issues continue for Nygard as he resists extradition for the United States, where he is charged in New York with nine offenses including, conspiracy to commit racketeering, sex trafficking, and fraud.