Manhattan-based fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been arrested in Canada on charges of sexually assaulting and trafficking dozens of girls and women over the years across three countries, authorities said. The 79-year-old fashion designer was arrested by Canadian police on Monday in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the US government's request under the countries' extradition treaty.

He made an initial court appearance on Tuesday but denied any wrongdoing. The charges were announced in New York on Tuesday by acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss, the FBI and New York City police. According to prosecutors, Nygard used his international brand to trap underage girl and recruit them and made them his sex preys.

Arrested at Last

Peter Nygard
Wikimedia Commons

Strauss said that since 1995 Nygard has been using his international brand and influence to "recruit and maintain" victims in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas to sexually gratify himself and his associates. Moreover, the Finland-born fashion designer's victims were mostly underage girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds who sometimes had a history of abuse.

He would often recruit and pay for sex with his victims, who were put on his payroll as "models," "assistants" or communication specialists, prosecutors said. Most of the time the recruitments would be through company-funded "Pamper Parties" where there would be free food, drink and spa services, and held at his properties in Marina del Rey in California and the Bahamas. These payments often covered the plastic surgery, immigration assistance, abortions, dental work and other living expenses of the victims.

Nygard is also accused of taking his victims, who he would call his girlfriends, to swingers clubs where they would be forced to perform sexual acts with other men, "to facilitate Nygard having sex with other women and for his own sexual gratification."

Organized Crime

Rape representational image
Image for representational purpose only

Some of the female victims have earlier accused Nygard of forcing them to hire other sexual partners for him including girls as young as 14 years old, so he could have intercourse on a "near-daily basis," according to court documents. Prosecutors also said that the girls and women once recruited got trapped for ever.

Nygard would keep a constant vigil on them and would require his permission to leave the property. Moreover, he would often lure girls on the pretext of false promises of modeling opportunities and financial help. Nygard would also used threats of arrest, reputational harm and lawsuits to silence potential accusers, the indictment said.

Nygard has long been on the radar of the FBI and his offices have been raided earlier too. He was reportedly the subject of a previous FBI investigation for sex trafficking in 2015 and 2017. He stepped down as chairman of Nygard International after its headquarters in Times Square was raided by the FBI in February.

A total of 57 women, including 18 Canadians, have joined that lawsuit, which alleges that Nygard used violence, intimidation, bribery and company employees to lure victims and avoid accountability for decades. Several plaintiffs in the suit said they were 14 or 15 years old when Nygard drugged and then raped them. Nygard, however, has denied all the allegations.