Peter Nygard denied bail, will await extradition hearing behind bars
WINNIPEG -- Former fashion mogul Peter Nygard will remain behind bars while he awaits an extradition hearing after a Manitoba judge denied him bail Friday morning.
Nygard, 79, has been in custody since mid-December after he was arrested under the Extradition Act.
U.S. authorities have charged the former fashion executive with nine counts, including sex trafficking. None of the charges have been proven in court and Nygard is presumed innocent.
On Friday, Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg read her decision in the bail hearing for Nygard, saying she was satisfied he is a flight risk.
"The issue is whether the bail plan mitigates the risk," she said, ultimately deciding it did not.
Greenberg said in her decision that federal lawyers had argued the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail if convicted would be incentive to flee, and said Nygard has the "financial wherewithal to make flight a reality."
While she said the state of Nygard's finances is "highly contentious," she said the "the cost of the bail plan put forward could only be supported by a man of means."
Nygard's lawyers had proposed a revised bail plan which would have the 79-year-old man under house arrest in his Royalwood home – valued at $989,000 – in Winnipeg where he was arrested.
The home would be posted as part of the bail. The home is currently owned by former Nygard company executive Greg Fenske who was a surety in the bail plan.
Nygard’s lawyers previously said a total of $1.2 million would be put up as a financial component for his release.
Last week, the head of BIL Security told court the company would monitor Nygard’s home around-the-clock using military-grade cameras in order to ensure he doesn’t leave – a move that would be paid for by Nygard.
In addition to the security – Nygard's lawyers proposed he would wear an ankle bracelet. They had said his passport had expired and he has no plans to renew it.
While Greenberg called the revised bail plan impressive, she said she also has concerns about witness tampering if Nygard were to be released.
Scott Farlinger, the federal lawyer contesting Nygard’s release, previously told the court that video monitoring only goes so far. He said Nygard is a flight risk, his sureties aren’t adequate, and also expressed concerns over potential witness tampering.
Nygard's lawyers had argued the COVID-19 pandemic is also putting Nygard at risk given his age and medical condition. Greenberg said this was among the main arguments in support for Nygard's release. However she said the pandemic is only one factor in the bail decision.
She said it should not be treated as a "get-out-of-jail-free card."
Greenberg said there are seven active cases of COVID-19 in the Headingley Correctional Centre where Nygard is being held. She said the facility is taking precautions against COVID-19, including enhanced cleaning, and a 14-day isolation of incoming inmates at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
Nygard, who appeared in court via video conference from the Headingley Correctional Centre, sat staring straight ahead as Greenberg denied him bail.
Reached by phone after the hearing Jay Prober, one of Nygard’s lawyers, responded to the decision to deny bail.
“We’re disappointed for our 79-year-old client but we will fight on,” said Prober.
Prober said they’re waiting for disclosure from the prosecution in relation to the extradition proceedings.
“We do not have the actual disclosure from the prosecution,” said Prober. “They’re waiting to get it from the U.S. attorney’s office.”
Prober said he has yet to speak with Nygard about the bail decision.
“It’s difficult to communicate with him, I can tell you that, despite the best efforts of the people at Headingley,” said Prober. “That will be one issue. We’re still concerned about his health because of all his pre-existing health conditions.”
Prober said he doesn’t know the details of exactly where in Headingley Nygard is being held because lawyers aren’t allowed to go into the facility.
“We made our best efforts and we’re disappointed that he’s not being released.”
Court previously heard an extradition hearing for Nygard likely won’t happen until at least June, and even as late as the fall.
"This is a process that can take years," said Colleen McKeown, who is a criminal defence lawyer out of Toronto.
She said the reason for the long process is because there are a number of ways to fight an extradition at different stages of the process.
"If someone chooses to exhaust all of the avenues open to them to challenge the process, that's where you see longer extradition processes."