Seventeen Canadian women have come forward accusing fashion mogul Peter Nygard of rape and sexual assault, adding their allegations to an international rape lawsuit involving 46 women in total.
Three of the Canadian women say they were 16 years old or younger when the alleged assaults took place. One says she was 14. Nine of the assaults are alleged to have taken place in Canada.
The allegations are contained in an updated class-action legal complaint filed in New York on Monday by civil lawyers acting for a group of women who say they were raped by Nygard.
The complaint also names several Canadian Nygard executives, claiming they “conspired,” “concealed” and “enabled” their boss’s alleged criminal behaviour.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
“Nygard used his considerable influence in the fashion industry, his wealth, his power through corruption of officials, and a network of company employees under his direction, to kidnap, groom and entice children and women,” the complaint says.
“The Nygard Companies, through Nygard and a close ring of upper-level executives and employees, knowingly and continuously conspired with Nygard to enable, act as a front, and conceal Nygard’s criminal activity.”
Nygard denies allegations
Nygard, through his spokesperson Ken Frydman, says the allegations are all untrue.
“Mr. Nygard vehemently denies these baseless allegations and looks forward to clearing his name and the names of others who have been so recklessly and falsely accused,” Frydman said in a written statement.
The amended class-action complaint is a continuation of a civil class-action lawsuit launched in New York against Nygard in February.
The original lawsuit involves 10 complainants who allege Nygard raped them. All but one of them were from the Bahamas, where Nygard owns a palatial seaside mansion.
The new lawsuit involves women who came forward after the original claim, alleging rapes in different locales around the world, including Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto.
“Canada is a huge factor in our lawsuit now,” said Lisa Haba, one of the lawyers acting for the complainants.
“More than a third of our victims are from Canada.”
The Canadian allegations include a woman, referred to as Jane Doe No. 15, who says she was flown to Winnipeg for a modelling job. The complaint says she was held “captive” for three days by Nygard and repeatedly raped.
“After three days, Jane Doe No. 15 was able to escape,” the complaint says. “She was told by Nygard’s nephew not to report Nygard’s crimes to the Winnipeg police because Nygard ‘owns them.'”
Another says she attended a party at Nygard’s office in Toronto when she was 16 years old. She claims Nygard drugged and raped her.
A third says she was 15 when Nygard pushed her into a bathroom at a Winnipeg restaurant and raped her. She says Nygard knew her father, who was in the fur business at the time.
Another, referred to as Jane Doe No. 18, met Nygard at the airport in Montreal. The claim says she was offered a ride to her “dormitory.” On the way she says Nygard stopped to drop his bags off at his apartment.
“Nygard invited Jane Doe No. 18 up to his apartment to wait for him,” the complaint says. “While at the apartment, Nygard forcibly raped Jane Doe No. 18.” She was 19 years old at the time.
The youngest complainant says she was just 14 when she met Nygard in Winnipeg, where she grew up.
“Nygard picked Jane Doe No. 44 up on the street where young, adolescents gathered on several occasions,” the complaint says.
“Nygard promised Jane Doe No. 44 that he would fly her to California, where he could take her to parties with drugs and alcohol. Nygard drove Jane Doe No. 44 to the Nygard Companies property in Winnipeg on several occasions and paid her for oral sex. Nygard would then drive Jane Doe No. 44 back to where he picked her up.”
Lawsuit says employees knew
The complaint says several of Nygard’s senior employees were aware of and helped cover up his alleged crimes in order to profit from his brand and company.
“Until recently, Nygard has largely been able to silence his victims, with the help of the Nygard Companies and their upper-level executives and employees, through various tactics including intimidation, threats of retribution, bribery, payoffs and forced non-disclosure agreements,” the complaint says.
“We have corroborating evidence that each one of [the named senior employees] definitely knew what was going on and in some capacity enabled him to continue,” said Haba.
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In February, the FBI raided Nygard’s offices in New York and California. Following that, Nygard said he would step down as chairman of his company and divest his ownership stake.
In March, a Manitoba judge ordered the company into receivership. The Nygard chain, headquartered in Winnipeg, operated 169 retail stores in North America and had 1,450 employees worldwide.
Nygard, through his spokespeople, has repeatedly blamed the allegations on an ongoing feud with his neighbour in the Bahamas, retired billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon.
“These claims … are the product of a well-funded and well-documented scheme by Louis Bacon to pay women to fabricate stories about him,” Nygard spokesperson Frydman said in his statement.
“Peter Nygard looks forward to exposing the details of the billionaire-backed conspiracy Louis Bacon has orchestrated for years, which sadly now counts as its victims the more than 1,400 people who worked for the Nygard companies and relied upon those jobs to support themselves and their families.”
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