- By Bernd Debusmann Jr
- BBC News, Washington
A Canadian jury has found former fashion mogul Peter Nygard guilty of sexual assault after a six-week trial.
Prosecutors told a Toronto court that Nygard, 82, used his “status” to assault five women in a series of incidents from the late 1980s to 2005.
Nygard denied the charges, and his defense team accused the victims of “gold-digging” for financial gain.
He was found not guilty of a fifth charge of sexual assault and a forcible confinement charge.
Nygard showed no emotion as the verdict was handed down on the jury’s fifth day of deliberations.
According to prosecutors, Nygard lured the women — ages 16 to 28 at the time — to a private luxury room at his company’s Toronto headquarters.
A prosecutor described the room as having “a huge bed … and a bar and doors, doors without handles and automatic locks controlled by Peter Nygard”.
Prosecutors alleged that Nygard would assault the women once they were trapped in the room.
After Nygard’s conviction, his son Kai Zen Bickle told reporters outside court in Toronto that the jury’s decision was “a victory” for all those “who came forward and were denied justice.”
“One more child will not be affected, one more woman will not be affected,” Mr Bickle said. “(Nygard) has to actually sit down and think about all these things.”
Sir. Bickle has become an outspoken supporter of her father’s alleged victims and described the moment Nygard was found guilty on Sunday as “emotional.”
“There are so many survivors out there, this is their day,” he said.
Nygard’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said “we will consider the options” when reporters asked if Nygard would seek an appeal.
Sentencing will be set for November 21.
During closing arguments earlier this week, Crown prosecutors and Nygard’s defense team painted dramatically different pictures of the man who once hobnobbed with celebrities and headed a lucrative global clothing empire.
Greenspan told jurors the state’s case rested on “revisionist history” built on “contradictions and innuendo,” Canadian media reported.
He also claimed that four of the five women – who are also part of a US class action – were motivated by financial gain.
Over five days of tense testimony and cross-examination earlier in the trial, Nygard said he could never have acted “in that way” and that he did not remember four of the five women, according to the CBC.
Prosecutors relied heavily on the evidence of the women in court.
Crown attorney Neville Golwalla addressed the media on Sunday after the verdict and thanked the women who had come forward.
“This is a crime that typically occurs in private life and deeply affects human dignity,” Ms Golwalla said.
“Standing forward and speaking about these abuses in a public forum like a courtroom is never easy and takes great courage.”
Nygard — once estimated to be worth at least $700 million — still faces another trial in Montreal next year on assault and confinement charges in Winnipeg.
Once his criminal proceedings in Canada are complete, he will be extradited to the United States, where authorities allege he was involved in a “decades-long pattern of criminal conduct” involving at least a dozen victims across the globe. He is currently fighting that extradition.
The guilty verdicts on Sunday mean a fantastic fall for Nygard.
In February 2020, he stepped down as chairman of his company, Nygard International, shortly before it filed for bankruptcy after US authorities raided its New York headquarters.
He has been in prison since his arrest in December of the same year.