WINNIPEG, Manitoba/NEW YORK Dec. 15 (Reuters) — The Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was charged on Tuesday, Dec. 15, with sex trafficking, racketeering and other crimes targeting dozens of women and underage girls over a quarter century in three countries, U.S. authorities said.
Canadian police arrested Nygard in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Monday at the U.S. government's request under the countries' extradition treaty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said Nygard, 79, had since 1995 used his influence and businesses to "recruit and maintain" victims in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas to sexually gratify himself and his associates.
Nygard made an initial appearance in a Winnipeg court, where he wore a white face mask, a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, with his long white hair pulled back in a bun.
Elkan Abramowitz, a New York-based lawyer for Nygard, declined to comment.
Nygard also faces class-action civil litigation in Manhattan accusing him of sexual misconduct toward dozens of women. He has denied wrongdoing.
Born in Finland, Nygard grew up in Manitoba and graduated from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1964, according to a Q&A conducted by UND Today in July 2019. He eventually ran his own namesake clothing companies.
UND spokesman David Dodds confirmed that Nygard is a UND alum but said the university wouldn’t have any further comment about the situation.
As recently as late February, Nygard’s photo hung in the UND Center for Innovation’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 2004.
Dodds said that none of the hall of fame photos are in the Center at this time. The photos were taken down weeks ago by UND Art Collections to make space for new displays. The removal of the photos was not related to the Nygard allegations, Dodds said.
Authorities said that victims were assaulted by Nygard or his associates, with some drugged to ensure they met his sexual demands, and that Nygard often targeted victims who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or had suffered abuse.
The nine-count indictment said Nygard 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 Nygard took some victims - he called them "girlfriends" — to swingers clubs where they would be intimidated into having sex with other men, "to facilitate Nygard having sex with other women and for his own sexual gratification."
Nygard also used threats of arrest, reputational harm and lawsuits to silence potential accusers, the indictment said.
In February, Nygard stepped down as chairman of Nygard International after its New York headquarters near Times Square was raided by the FBI.
Forum News Service reporter Sydney Mook contributed to this report.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard Goller)