Manitoba judge expresses concerns over aspects of Peter Nygard’s bail plan

WINNIPEG — It will be at least another week before a Manitoba judge decides whether former fashion mogul Peter Nygard should remain in jail after expressing concerns over aspects of his bail plan.

Justice Shawn Greenberg told court the issue she has is with the role of one of Nygard’s sureties. Greenberg expressed in court serious concerns with his testimony.

Nygard has been charged with sex trafficking in the United States and his lawyers argue he should be freed, in part because he’s at risk of contracting COVID-19 in custody while awaiting possible extradition.

On Wednesday, a prosecutor fighting to keep Nygard, 79, behind bars told court there’s not enough at stake in the bail plan to dissuade Nygard from breaching conditions.

“One of the main issues is that we have no substantial information as to what Nygard’s means are,” Scott Farlinger, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada, told court.

Farlinger argued Nygard ultimately owns a $989,000 Winnipeg home he wants to live in under house arrest if he’s released — the same home put up for his bail.

Farlinger told court one of Nygard’s proposed sureties, former Nygard company executive Greg Fenske, who would be responsible for supervising Nygard if he gets bail, doesn’t own that home and should be disqualified as a surety because he’s got nothing to lose if Nygard violates conditions.

“The surety needs skin in the game,” Farlinger told court.

Justice Greenberg’s concerns over Fenske’s suitability as a surety prompted Nygard’s lawyers to ask for more time to come up with revisions to the bail plan. But they’ve argued time isn’t on Nygard’s side.

“Nygard is fighting for his life, his health is in a downward spiral,” Richard Wolson, one of Nygard’s lawyers, told court. “You can’t stop COVID-19.”

Nygard is being held in custody at Headingley Correctional Centre, which is dealing with another outbreak of the virus.

Nygard appeared in court on a large video screen from a small room in the jail. He wore a medical face mask and carried a pen and paper.

He once again heard his bail hearing play out while sitting in jail taking notes and, at times, adjusting his mask revealing a white moustache and beard.

Farlinger argued Nygard’s bail plan is inadequate given the serious nature of the allegations. Farlinger argued the 79-year-old should stay in jail while awaiting possible extradition.

“We accept he’s at higher risk of a morbid outcome should he contract the virus,” Farlinger told court, arguing that doesn’t outweigh the circumstances of the allegations against Nygard and shouldn’t be an overriding factor on the bail application.

“The COVID factor is not a get out of jail free card,” Farlinger argued.

Nygard’s been in custody since his arrest on Dec. 14, 2020, under the Extradition Act. U.S. authorities charged him with nine counts including sex trafficking and racketeering. The charges against him have not been proven in court.

Nygard’s lawyers told the bail hearing their client’s been aware of the allegations for months before his arrest while living in Manitoba.

“It goes to the issue of flight,” Wolson told Justice Greenberg. “He knows of the allegations and makes no effort to leave.”

U.S. authorities allege Nygard engaged in a decades-long pattern of using force and coercion to entice and recruit women and girls to have paid sex with himself and others.

The allegations are contained in a U.S. bail letter Wolson argued is one-sided and lacks objectivity, reliability and fairness because it’s missing certain evidence.

“It gives one a false sense of the allegations,” Wolson argued. “It’s presenting a false picture.”

Defence lawyers argued Nygard’s not a flight risk and if he’s kept in jail he could die.

“He’s a 79-year-old man with serious health issues,” Nygard’s lawyer Jay Prober told court, arguing that keeping him in custody makes it “virtually impossible” for lawyers to review the extradition materials with him due to COVID-19 protocols.

“Keeping Mr. Nygard in jail seriously and severely challenges his right to make full answer and defence to the extradition proceedings.”

The bail hearing will continue Jan.28, when it’s expected the defence will present a revised bail plan. 

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