After a parade of five women over the past two weeks laid out their shocking allegations of being sexually abused by the former fashion mogul in the locked hideout of his corporate headquarters in downtown Toronto, Peter Nygard will take the stand in his own defense on Wednesday.
Since his trial began last month, the jury has seen the wealthy tycoon in many photos from his youth – with his blonde mane of long hair, his tanned face and pearly smile, his arms often wrapped around much younger beauties – as he sits in silence the lawyer’s table. Now, for the first time, you can hear from the 82-year-old himself as he confronts his accusers.
But defense attorney Brian Greenspan has already warned that Nygard doesn’t remember much. It’s not just time to work against him, he said. “It is impossible to remember an event that did not happen.”
After the Crown wrapped up its case Tuesday afternoon, Greenspan strolled to the podium and told jurors he would call two witnesses — including Nygard, who chose to waive his right to remain silent to set the record straight. They would hear, the lawyer promised, a “clear, unequivocal and emphatic denial of sexual misconduct in relation to each of the five complainants.”
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Nygard pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement, involving incidents dating from the late 1980s to 2005.
“Four weeks ago, the Crown made its case with some dramatic flourish: fashion empire, wealth, status, property around the world, private jets, power, influence – words apparently intended to set the tone for who Peter Nygard should support” The prosecution’s theory “that Peter Nygard was a sexual predator, a selfish megalomaniac who violently violated the five women who testified before you,” Greenspan charged.
None of them told the truth, he said. Her statement was “inaccurate, unreliable and unbelievable.”
When Nygard was arrested and arrived in Toronto on October 28, 2021, to answer charges against four women, he told police that he had “no recollection” of meeting the four or any social interaction to have had them, said Greenspan.
While he admits knowing a fifth complainant who worked at his Nygard Cay property in the Bahamas, he will “categorically deny that he was involved in the sexual assaults she alleges.”
Greenspan described Nygard as an immigrant from Finland who came to Canada and worked hard to build the international fashion empire he led. He will tell the jury about his private quarters at 1 Niagara St., which was affectionately called the “Finland Suite” and was neither hidden nor a hideout. Instead, he said, it was proudly shown to customers and public figures.
Since his arrest, Nygard has tried to find out where he was at the time, but has found it “virtually impossible” to remember everything from where he was more than 30 years ago. “Where were any of us in January or February 1989?” the lawyer asked.
The defense’s first witness was a former girlfriend of Nygard’s, whose name was protected by a publication ban. She contradicted one of the complainants who said the American woman watched Nygard rape her while his guests had group sex in his office bedroom.
The friend, who lived with Nygard in the mid-1990s, recalled introducing the complainant at the airport and seeing her on Nygard Cay, but denied ever witnessing a sexual assault.
And contrary to another complainant’s testimony, she claimed Nygard’s penis was “average” and not as large as a child’s.
But the prosecution scored some points.
Under cross-examination by Crown Neville Golwalla, the former girlfriend admitted being present when Nygard had group sex in that Toronto bedroom and, as some complainants have testified, recalled that the doors had no handles.
But she still stood by her husband.
When a newspaper report appeared in February 2020 with allegations of sexual assault against Nygard, she visited her old friend who was dealing with the “crisis.”
“He told me what was in the paper, that he never drugged anyone, and I know that,” she insisted.
She was asked how would she know?
“Did he suddenly turn into a different person? I do not believe that.”