WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual abuse.
Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard used his “power and status” to lure and sexually assault five women in the private bedroom of his downtown Toronto headquarters from the late 1980s to 2005, a court heard. Toronto on Tuesday morning, as opening arguments began.
Crown prosecutor Ana Serban gave a brief but detailed synopsis of each of the attacks Nygard, now 82, allegedly committed against the women, who were between 16 and 28 years old at the time.
Nygard pleaded not guilty last week in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.
Serban began by describing Nygard at the time of the alleged attacks as someone with a fashion empire, wealth, status, power and influence, including ownership of a private jet and properties around the world.
It was Nygard’s power and status, Serban told the court, that he used to “lure and sexually assault young women.”
Nygard established a similar pattern of sexual assault, the court was told. She had met these women before, and that initial meeting would later lead to what Serban described as “the tour” of their Toronto headquarters, located at 1 Niagara Street.
Eventually, the tour would end in Nygard’s private bedroom, which included a bed, televisions and a jacuzzi, as well as handleless doors and locks controlled by Nygard, the Crown alleged.
It was here that Nygard would attack the women, pinning them to the bed, where they would fight him but eventually be overpowered, the Crown said. The court was told two of the women asked or begged Nygard to put on a condom before the alleged sexual assault.
A woman went to a Rolling Stones concert with Nygard and then ended up in his private bedroom, the court heard. There she locked the door and asked him to prepare a sandwich for her.
After she complied, Nygard yelled and berated the woman for being a joke and not accepting his advances, the court heard. When she said she wanted to leave, he pinned her against her bed, but after struggling and realizing there was nothing she could do, she told him to “at least put on a bloody condom”, the court heard.
After the alleged assault, Nygard threw a $100 bill at him, the court heard.
Other people were also present in at least two of the alleged attacks, the Crown said. In the case of the 16-year-old, the court heard that another woman joined in the alleged assault. Afterwards, the woman gave the teenager some pills and called her the next day to tell her to take them all, the court was told; It was later determined that they were morning-after emergency contraceptive pills.
The five complainants are expected to testify during the approximately seven-week trial.
On Tuesday, Nygard was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair, wearing a black suit and white shirt, no tie, and black-rimmed glasses. His hands were cuffed in front of him and his long white hair was tied up in a bun.
Nygard was removed from the handcuffs and a court security guard helped him to the defense table, where he took a seat next to his attorneys. A previous agreement stipulated that he would be allowed to sit with his defense team and have access to a pen.
Nygard stood, showing no emotion, as the charges against him were read to the jury.
Following the Crown’s opening statement, the court heard from two witnesses, including a former Nygard contractor, who gave details of the building at 1 Niagara Street, including the floor on which Nygard’s private bedroom was located.
David Gauthier testified about a suite door with an electromagnetic lock that, if unlocked from the inside, could only be unlocked from a panel on a table near Nygard’s bed.
Nygard also faces sex-related charges in Manitoba and Quebec, and will be extradited to the United States to face sex-related charges there once his criminal cases in Canada are completed.
He founded the now-defunct Nygard International in Winnipeg in 1967, but resigned as president of the clothing company in February 2020 before it filed for bankruptcy.