Peter Nygard has signed a consent form agreeing to bypass the court extradition process and move straight to ministerial review by the federal justice minister, Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench heard Friday morning.
This comes more than nine months after he was charged with a number offences in the United States.
Scott Farlinger, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada, which is representing the U.S. government in this case, said Nygard can’t be surrendered for at least 30 days and has the right to appeal the surrender order.
He could also apply for judicial interim release or bail, Farlinger said.
Farlinger also said this is not the end of the extradition process, and it’s ultimately up to Canada’s justice minister to decide whether or not to surrender Nygard to the U.S.
Nygard’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said that although his client has agreed to move ahead with the extradition process, he still maintains his innocence.
Following the hearing, Greenspan said that all that was conceded Friday is that there is enough evidence on one charge, trafficking in persons, to commit to extradition.
“As in the past, Mr. Nygard denies any allegations of criminal conduct. He denies any suggestion that he engaged in conduct for which he should be charged criminally,” he said outside the Winnipeg law courts.
In custody since December 2020
Nygard, 80, has been in custody since he was arrested at a Winnipeg house on Dec. 14, 2020.
He is charged in the U.S. with sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy related to “a decades-long pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Toronto police have also charged the former fashion mogul with multiple counts of sexual assault. Police confirmed Friday they have issued an arrest warrant for Nygard on six counts of sexual assault and three counts of forcible confinement, for incidents that allegedly happened between 1987 and 2006.
Greenspan said it will be up to the minister of justice whether Nygard is extradited to the U.S. to face trial there first, or whether he will be tried for charges in Canada prior to that.
None of the allegations against Nygard have been proven in court. He has yet to enter a plea in response to the charges he’s facing in New York.
The extradition hearing was originally set to take place over five days beginning Nov. 15 in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench, but was moved up to Oct. 1 and scheduled for one hour.
“This whole process was about him having a trial in the United States, and his hope and ours is that he’ll be vindicated,” said Richard Wolson, another lawyer on Nygard’s defence team. He said Nygard has several health issues.
“The matter’s been brought forward so he can get on with his fight, and his fight will be in New York.”
WATCH |Nygard agrees to fast-track expedition process:
Though he has been charged with five offences in the United States, the extradition request was only for the trafficking in persons charge, Greenspan explained.
Nygard’s defence team intends to make their submissions to the federal minister of justice in the next week or so, Greenspan said. He said they won’t argue that Nygard shouldn’t be extradited, but will argue that he should only be surrendered to face the trafficking in persons charges, not the other offences he’s been charged with in the United States, and may raise issues on the conditions of his surrender.
After that, the Canadian government has 30 days to respond, after which the minister has another 30 days to issue a decision.
Nygard hopes the extradition process will be over by the end of the year, Greenspan said.
“He wants to face these charges. The only place you can be vindicated is at trial. You can’t be vindicated at an extradition hearing,” he said.
Nygard tried unsuccessfully to get bail. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada denied his request to challenge two lower court decisions that denied him bail.
Gary Botting, a Vancouver-based extradition lawyer, said the matter could drag on beyond the end of the year if Nygard’s lawyers choose to appeal the minister of justice’s decision once it comes down.
“The surrender is still very much up in the air,” he said.
He said Nygard’s lawyers could also ask the minister to release their client on compassionate grounds and not send him to the U.S.
“So Nygard’s going to be here for a long time. He’s not simply throwing in his cards,” Botting said.
No charges in Winnipeg
A number of women told CBC News they had reported allegations of rape to the Winnipeg Police Service last year.
Eight files were referred by the Winnipeg police to the Crown prosecutor’s office for review in December 2020, sources said.
“We can confirm that WPS has concluded its investigation into allegations of sexual assaults by Peter Nygard and that the results have been forwarded to Manitoba Justice,” a Winnipeg police spokesperson wrote.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice won’t say whether charges will be laid against Nygard, only that “there are no charges outstanding for Mr. Nygard in Manitoba.”
Manitoba Justice officials won’t provide any more details — not even to say if the case is still open.
In past media statements, Nygard’s lawyer has said he is innocent and the accusations have been made up to tarnish his reputation.