Disgraced fashion magnate Peter Nygard will have a tough time avoiding extradition to the U.S. on sex and racketeering charges, and it’s a fight that could take years.
University of Manitoba law professor Gerard Kennedy said Wednesday that if the 79-year-old Nygard consents to extradition, he could be in the hands of American justice authorities within weeks.
"Everything I know about Mr. Nygard’s response to these allegations (suggests) he’s not going to do that," Kennedy said. "If he wants to avail himself of all the appeals and judicial reviews, he could easily take years."
RCMP federal investigators arrested Nygard Monday night in Winnipeg at the behest of U.S. authorities on a nine-count indictment for racketeering and sex-related offences.
Before extradition proceedings can move forward, during what is called the judicial stage, the Crown, representing U.S. authorities in Canada, must first satisfy the court that there is evidence Nygard has committed crimes in the U.S. that would also be crimes in Canada and were sufficiently serious to merit extradition, Kennedy said.
"I don’t think the Crown will have very much difficulty in proving that, given all we have learned," he said. "Unless the evidence is clearly deficient, that stage can be met."
If a judge is satisfied at the judicial stage that there is enough evidence to support Nygard’s extradition, the matter will then go before federal Justice Minister David Lametti for final approval.
"At that stage, Mr. Nygard would be able to make submissions that it would be unjust or oppressive in the circumstances to extradite him, and he may cite, for instance, his health or his age," Kennedy said. "It will, ultimately, be up to the justice minister to decide whether or not to accede to those submissions."
"... by the time you go through the judicial process then you go through the minister making his decision, then you go through any challenges to the minister’s decision, this could take quite some time. It could take years.” — University of Manitoba law professor Gerard Kennedy
If Lametti approves the extradition, Nygard could then apply for a judicial review, which would be an uphill and time-consuming climb, Kennedy said.
"It’s hard to prove that the minister’s made an unreasonable decision in this regard.... But the point I am trying to make is, by the time you go through the judicial process then you go through the minister making his decision, then you go through any challenges to the minister’s decision, this could take quite some time. It could take years."
Two women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Nygard decades ago in Winnipeg say they have filed formal complaints with the Winnipeg Police Service. A police spokesperson said he could not confirm whether Nygard is under investigation.
Coverage of Winnipeg business icon Peter NygardClick to Expand
Posted: 11:45 AM Mar. 10, 2020
A class-action lawsuit alleges Winnipeg fashion mogul Peter Nygard lured women, many under the age of 18, to his Bahamian estate so he could assault, rape and sodomize them — part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme his companies helped him achieve.
"For privacy reasons we can’t divulge when a person is under investigation," said Const. Jay Murray. "Charges are a matter of public record and we can tell you at this point, at this time, Mr. Nygard has not been charged by the Winnipeg Police Service."
A spokesperson for Manitoba RCMP would not say whether Mounties are investigating Nygard.
If he is extradited to the U.S., his Canadian accusers may never see him face prosecution on home soil.
"There are certainly instances where the country that wants somebody extradited gets first dibs," Kennedy said. "It might just depend on how advanced the (respective) investigations are."
Canada and the U.S. could conceivably reach an agreement that would see Nygard returned to Canada strictly for trial purposes if charged here, Kennedy said.
"In principle, I don’t see why that would be forbidden, but it is a little unusual," he said. "But we do see this happen between (U.S.) states. For instance, (sexual predator former entertainment mogul) Harvey Weinstein was convicted in New York and is still now going to be sent to California for a trial."
One alleged Nygard victim reached by phone Wednesday was jubilant over news of his arrest, but furious about the fact it took U.S. justice authorities to do it.
“Apparently orange is the new polyester." — Alleged Nygard victim on the news of his arrest
"Apparently orange is the new polyester," the former Winnipegger cracked, combining the title of a Netflix prison drama series and Nygard's manufacturing fabric of choice.
The woman is one of dozens of alleged victims participating in a U.S. class-action lawsuit filed last February accusing Nygard of a decades-long reign of sex abuse. She spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing releasing her name would jeopardize legal proceedings.
"I, for one, always believed justice would be served… (but) I’m deeply disappointed that it took a civil lawsuit to get a criminal (prosecution) going," she said. "And I’m pissed off that it wasn’t the Winnipeg police who brought him down. This man’s a home-grown cancer cluster. He should have been brought down where he thrived."
The woman said she is not bothered by the prospect Nygard may never face prosecution in Canada.
"I think the Southern District (of New York) is a really good home for this monster," she said. "I think that is a place where they are good at these kinds of prosecutions. I have very little faith in the Winnipeg justice system right now."
On Wednesday morning, three men were seen coming and going in separate vehicles from the Royalwood-area home where Nygard was arrested Monday. One of them carried a black trash bag from the house and placed it into a vehicle. When approached by a reporter, he said he was taking out the trash and had been "volunteering" at the home in recent weeks, delivering food. He didn't provide his name or answer questions about whether he was working for Nygard.
Two other men declined to comment, but told the Free Press to leave the property and then drove off in separate vehicles.
Nygard was believed to be living at the home, which authorities believe is owned by one of Nygard's employees, Greg Fenske. RCMP had the John Bruce Road East property under surveillance since Dec. 10, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.