Peter Nygard’s son says he fears his father will flee Canada before it’s determined whether or not criminal charges can be laid in connection with allegations of sexual assault, leaving no way to bring the fashion mogul back to face his accusers in the future.
CBC News is not using the first name of the man — who is one of Nygard’s 10 children — in order to protect the identities of his two brothers, who recently filed a lawsuit claiming Peter Nygard hired a “known sex worker” to have sex with them when they were underage. The son says people could easily identify his brothers if his name is made public.
The 79-year-old fashion designer is under investigation in Canada, the U.S. and the Bahamas for allegations of sex crimes. In February, the FBI raided Nygard’s New York headquarters and two grand jury subpoenas have been issued for Nygard company records.
No charges have been laid in any of the investigations and it’s not known if any of them are complete. Nygard has consistently denied he has sexually abused anyone, and maintains the allegations are fabrications as part of a conspiracy to malign his reputation.
“It’s been really difficult to deal with,” Nygard’s son said in an exclusive interview with CBC News.
“He was someone that I really admired in a lot of ways because I only knew him as my dad.”
The son says he’s speaking out now because he’s afraid if he stays quiet, his father’s accusers — including his two brothers — may never get justice.
“My No. 1 goal is for him not to escape,” he said.
He says Nygard spends summers in Falcon Lake in southeastern Manitoba, and would normally head to one of his properties in California or the Bahamas by the third week of September. But with his father under a cloud of sex allegations, the son thinks his father will instead set his sights on a jurisdiction that won’t extradite him if charges are ever authorized.
“He believes that he’s above the law — the law does not apply to him,” said the son, adding he bases that on his father’s past actions.
“He’s never had to answer anybody. And he doesn’t intend to answer anything on this either.”
In November 2019, Nygard was convicted of contempt of court in the Bahamas and sentenced to 90 days in jail after failing to appear in court for a long-running environmental dispute. Nygard has appealed that ruling.
Nygard’s son says his father called the Bahamas home for 40 years, but chose to leave the island nation right before he was scheduled in court. He says his dad never returned after an arrest warrant was issued in that case.
“If he steps foot in the Bahamas right now, they would arrest him on the spot,” said Nygard’s son.
Nygard, companies accused of facilitating sex assaults
In a court affidavit earlier this summer, Nygard said he was staying at his cottage in Falcon Lake. He also said over the past year and a half, he’d been in Manitoba, living in an apartment attached to one of his Winnipeg warehouses.
The sale of that warehouse was approved in June as part of a court-ordered receivership involving nine Nygard companies.
In February, 10 women filed a class-action lawsuit in a Southern District of New York court, claiming the fashion designer raped them at his properties in the U.S. and the Bahamas. Some of the women said they were as young as 14 years old at the time of the alleged assaults.
A handful of his companies were also named as defendants for allegedly facilitating and participating in a “decades-long sex trafficking scheme.”
That lawsuit now includes a total of 57 women, who say Nygard sexually assaulted them dating as far back as the 1970s. At least two of the women have told CBC News they have also filed formal complaints with Winnipeg police.
Last month, a judge put the civil case on hold, after the U.S. government was granted leave to intervene. Nygard’s son thinks that is significant.
“They’re not going to just do that on a whim,” he said. “What I think that says is that they have enough evidence to make that move.”
He also said his dad used to call him “No. 1” son. He travelled around the globe with his dad on a project, and his name was on some Nygard business and property documents. He says that changed last spring after the allegations of rape became public and he started asking questions.
“I texted [my dad] and I confronted him about it. But his response to me was not to listen to it, that it all was all lies,” he said.
“He wanted me to go out publicly and just blindly defend him. And I told them that that’s not possible.”
The son says he was long considered to be one of the heirs to his father’s fortune, but recently his name was taken off Nygard companies and property. Names of his father’s supporters and “enablers” were put in his place, he says.
“They’re doing everything they can to try to punish me for asking the tough questions,” he said, rather than “taking what they tell me and marching … to the drum.”
“When you start talking about pedophilia and rape, there’s a line that gets crossed there,” said the man, adding he was shocked and disgusted to learn about the accusations against his father.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s your dad … [it] doesn’t matter if there’s a potential inheritance or money.”
Although the allegations haven’t been proven in court, Nygard’s son says he believes his brothers.
“My brothers are not liars … and I know this because they both confided in me in detail about these incidents,” he said.
He was upset when his father’s lawyer said claims, including those made by his own brothers, were made up.
“This was our experience, our first-hand experience in the family … we thought it only fair that we speak out about it.”
Nygard ‘saddened’ son ‘turned against him’: lawyer
Peter Nygard’s lawyer says his client will respond to the accusations in court, where he can face his accusers and be vindicated, “if it ever becomes necessary.”
“It is most unfortunate that Peter Nygard continues to have to respond to these false allegations in the media,” Jay Prober said in an email to CBC News.
He said Nygard loves Winnipeg, and concerns he will flee Manitoba are nonsense.
“This is his home and he has no intention of leaving here. If he wanted to, he could have left a very long time ago,” said Prober’s email.
He also suggested that Nygard’s sons only turned against their father when several of his companies began to struggle financially.
Prober said Nygard was “especially saddened” that the son who spoke with CBC “turned against him,” because the son was a close part of Nygard’s business and private life.
“They were very close … my client believed the feeling was mutual.”
He says the son often gave glowing speeches “extolling his father’s virtues,” and that he “reaffirmed his support for his father many times, even after malicious and false allegations arose.”
Prober says the son’s actions, “both public and private, portray a much different story than what is being presented now.”
The son says Prober is being played by Nygard and making statements based on extremely limited information.
“I went against Nygard after investigating and discovering stories of rape and sexual abuse from several credible sources,” said the son.
Nygard kids grew up middle class: son
The son says Nygard’s 10 children — born to eight different women — all grew up with their mothers and weren’t wealthy, despite what people may think.
“None of us have been given an allowance or had money or any of that stuff growing up,” he said, and Nygard saw his kids during summer breaks and vacations.
He also says his father is “a master of hiding things.”
“He keeps people on a need-to-know basis,” he said. “I didn’t even find out about either of these brothers until [after] they were … 10 years old.”
Peter Nygard was known to have “pamper parties” at his homes in the Bahamas and California, where guests were given spa treatments, food and drinks.
WATCH | Peter Nygard at a ‘pamper party’ at his California home in a Facebook video posted in 2018:
According to the class-action lawsuit, some of the alleged sexual assaults occurred at the events. The court documents also accused Nygard of luring underage girls and women to the parties by promising them, among other things, lucrative modelling opportunities.
The son says he stopped in at a handful of pamper parties before they got started to grab food but says he never stuck around and never saw his dad assault anyone.
Could find ‘safe haven’: immigration lawyer
There are no laws preventing a Canadian citizen or foreign national from leaving this country while under investigation.
“Until someone is charged and is before the courts, they can’t be prevented from travelling and leaving,” said Winnipeg immigration lawyer Ken Zaifman.
Many people under police investigation don’t even know it, and in some cases, they’re never charged, he says.
If charges are laid, the courts can impose bail conditions to prevent an accused person from travelling, but barring that, Canadians are free to come and go as they please, says Zaifman.
“I don’t see what the … complainants can do to stop it, and what the government or what the authorities can do to stop it, other than charge him as soon as they are able to.”
Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says unfortunately, the more money a person has, the easier it can be to evade the law.
“It’s entirely possible that in this case … Mr. Nygard may find a country who is sympathetic to his, let’s say, his net worth, to his financial capacity,” said Clarke.
“And so he could find possibly a safe haven, which would be, in my view, quite unfortunate.”
He says if a country doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Canada, there may not be anything the government can do to get a person back, even if charges are laid.
Canada doesn’t track, or keep a record of, people who leave the country, he said. Only entries are monitored.
“If we had the resources in place, that would, in my view, uphold the Canadian rule of law and make sure that alleged criminals are not simply using their private chartered jets, for example — flying to places where we don’t have extradition treaties and escaping the law,” said Clarke.
Nygard’s son says if his father leaves Canada before charges are laid, he will never be brought to justice.
“This is about protecting women and protecting children, and I can’t in good [conscience] have this Epstein of Canada case end with him riding off into the sunset,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
He wants victims of sexual violence to know they can come forward and will be supported.
He says he and some of his brothers are now considering taking on their mothers’ names, and leaving the Nygard name behind.
“We don’t want to carry on his legacy in any way,” he said.
“Let Nygard have his own legacy all to himself.”