WINNIPEG – Authorities in the United States say Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been indicted on nine charges including racketeering and sex trafficking.
A news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York says the charges involve at least dozens of victims in the U.S., the Bahamas and Canada, among other locations.
Nygard, who is 79, was arrested under the Extradition Act and is to appear in a Winnipeg courtroom this afternoon.
The designer is facing a class-action lawsuit in the United States alleging the sexual assault of dozens of women.
A total of 57 women – including 18 Canadians – have joined the lawsuit, which alleges that Nygard used violence, intimidation, bribery, and company employees to lure victims and avoid accountability for decades.
Nygard stepped down as chairman of his company after the FBI and police raided his offices in New York City in February.
Nygard has denied all allegations and blames a conspiracy caused by a feud with his billionaire neighbour in the Bahamas.
Calls to Nygard’s Winnipeg lawyer were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.
“We are encouraged that a small measure of justice for Peter Nygard is finally developing,” Greg G. Gutzler, a lawyer for the women, said in a statement Tuesday.
“We are relieved that some measure of accountability is hopefully forthcoming, but we would be remiss if we did not state that this is something that should have been done decades ago.”
There were signs in the summer that the investigation against Nygard was progressing in the United States.
That suit was put on pause in the summer by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Reasons for the stay in the suit were sealed, however, the court docket at the time said the stay resulted from a government motion that named three federal prosecutors.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York did not respond to a request for comment at the time.
The original lawsuit against Nygard included allegations from 10 women who accused him of enticing them to his estate in the Bahamas.
In the following months, more women from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States joined the lawsuit.
The women, who are not named, have shared stories in court documents about being brought to Nygard’s offices and properties with promises of modelling or other career opportunities. Some allege they were given alcohol spiked with drugs before they were sexually assaulted.
Two women allege they were as young as 14.
The women are asking for a trial by jury and are seeking yet-to-be-determined damages.
In court filings earlier this year, Nygard argued the New York court does not have jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.
Two of Nygard’s sons filed a separate lawsuit against him this month claiming they were statutorily raped at his direction when they were teens. The sons say Nygard arranged for a woman to have sex with them.
Nygard has said through his lawyer that he was shocked by the allegations and categorically denied them.
That lawsuit alleges Nygard’s sexual predation is an “open secret” at his companies.
Nygard founded his fashion company in 1967 in Winnipeg, where it grew from a partial stake in a women’s garment manufacturer to a brand name sold in stores around the world.