In Midtown Manhattan, a few streets down from Times Square proper, is a store lit up in blue with the name Nygard plastered across the front. I’ve walked by the place maybe a hundred times during my commuting days (remember those?) and asked myself every time, Who is Peter Nygard and why does he have this big ugly store? As it turns out, the US government was also asking some pointed questions about Mr. Nygard and on Monday, the designer was arrested in Canada for allegedly using his fashion business as a front for sex trafficking and racketeering, CNN reports. Nygard is still in Canada awaiting bail and extradition hearings.
The indictment claims that Nygard and some of his associates had been using jobs in the fashion industry to lure women “into Nygard’s orbit” since 1995. When the women were in Nygard’s grasp, the indictment alleges that they were “forcibly sexually assaulted, drugged, and/or coerced into sexual contact with Nygard.” CNN reports that many of those who were victimized by Nygard were underage at the time. In February, the FBI and NYPD raided one of Nygard’s New York offices on the heels of a civil lawsuit that had alleged sex trafficking as well. The civil suit was filed by 10 women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted by Nygard and that the designer had been trafficking women in the Bahamas where he had a private island.
The current indictment states that over two dozen women spoke to US authorities claiming they had been sexually assaulted by Nygard either as adults or minors and some were held against their will in one of Nygard’s homes. Prosecutors believe there are more victims and are asking them to come forward.
The attorneys who represented the 10 anonymous women who filed suit in February claim that hundreds of women have spoken to them about abuse they endured from Nygard and his friends, with one attorney adding, ““It really has been an international human trafficking ring of a magnitude we’ve never seen.”