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Peter Nygard kept allegations of rape, involving women and girls as young as 14, a secret in the Bahamas for more than two decades. A CBC investigation reveals an elaborate effort by the former Canadian clothing mogul to cultivate influence with prominent decision-makers in the Bahamas, silence victims and block anyone who tried to expose him.
One afternoon in , word went out to staff at Peter Nygard's palatial seaside compound in the Bahamas. A meeting between Nygard and a senior politician had the green light. A well-oiled machine comprised of staff members who knew what to do when encounters like these were planned sprang into action. Cash was prepared by ants. Vehicles were readied. The former Canadian fashion mogul was informed it was time.
The massive wooden gates at the sprawling estate named for its owner, Nygard Cay, slowly rose to allow a convoy of cars to leave. Nygard would often meet powerful and influential people in the Bahamas under unusual circumstances. He still fears retribution from Nygard, and those close to him. The employee, who worked at Nygard Cay in various roles for nearly eight years starting in , was responsible for directing staff to make arrangements for the meeting.
For him, it was a familiar scene. The former employee, and three other sources, describe attempts by Nygard to forge connections at the highest levels in the Bahamas where he is accused of operating an elaborate sex trafficking ring spanning more than two decades, involving dozens of young women and girls, an investigation by the CBC podcast Evil By De and The Fifth Estate has found. She is one of 10 original women who went public in a class-action lawsuit with allegations against Nygard exposing for the first time what was going on behind the gates at Nygard Cay.
According to the suit, filed in New York last February, she was 14 years old when Nygard raped her in Since then, more than 70 additional women have stepped forward with similar allegations. In December, U. He was arrested in Winnipeg on an extradition request. The CBC investigation, involving interviews with 19 women who say they were raped by Nygard and many more conversations with lawyers, private investigators, politicians, local activists and former employees, reveals an elaborate effort to cultivate influence with prominent decision-makers in the Bahamas, silence victims and block anyone who tried to expose him.
The tactics include payments to senior politicians and police officers in the Bahamas, drugging and holding young women and girls against their will, an alleged campaign of violence against a group of local people who stood up to him and an aggressive legal offensive aimed at the CBC that began investigating reports of sexual misconduct involving Nygard in the Bahamas as far back as Nygard denies all of the allegations, and says they are lies and part of a conspiracy meant to destroy his reputation spearheaded by his former neighbour in the Bahamas, billionaire Louis Bacon.
In , Nygard purchased a modest bungalow on a breathtaking piece of property on the western tip of New Providence island in the Bahamas. Known as Simms Point for more than years, the piece of Caribbean paradise is surrounded on both sides by the sparkling Atlantic Ocean and is perched at the edge of a wealthy gated community called Lyford Cay. Nygard, the Finnish-Canadian founder of a Manitoba-based multimillion-dollar fashion empire, had fallen in love with the Bahamas.
And I'd never been to a warm country in my life," he told a Bahamian TV production in And I said, 'That's for me. Over the next 20 years, Nygard constructed a 2. It has 12 bedrooms, a berth for a metre yacht, pools and jacuzzis carved out of stone, a car garage, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a disco and a movie theatre.
As you approach the compound, tall wooden gates, edged with barbed wire, are under constant surveillance by a series of cameras. From above, a soaring glass roofed structure shaped like a star, known as the main hall, anchors the centre of the property while giant stone lions guard a turquoise lagoon and a vast white sand beach dominates the southern edge of the estate.
The politician at the time was the minister of agriculture, trade and industry in the ruling Progressive Liberal Party, or PLP. That politician was Perry Christie, who would go on to become prime minister of the Bahamas in Fast forward to Christie, now leader of the opposition, was preparing a campaign for a second run at prime minister. He celebrated there with Nygard's friends and family and the mayor of Winnpeg at the time, Sam Katz.
Nygard "is a ificant personality in the Bahamas, known for his philanthropy, a contributor to those who are in need," Christie said in a speech at the wedding, and then he went on to describe a favour he provided to Nygard. I was introduced to him and facilitated the granting of that certificate that enabled him to be a resident in the Bahamas. Later that same year, Christie travelled with Nygard to Las Vegas for a conference. Video from that trip shows Nygard introducing a series of young women to Christie in a hotel suite after a meeting. One of the women has a rolled-up wad of cash in her bra.
In , Christie won the election, becoming prime minister for a second time. A video from election night shows Nygard celebrating at his office in Times Square in Manhattan. A camera was rolling while he was talking on the phone. One of the best nights of my life," he can be heard saying. Let alone be the key instrument in making it happen, for Christ's sake. In the days that followed, another video shows Nygard hosting a group of government ministers from the PLP at Nygard Cay, boasting again about how he supported them. She describes Nygard as someone who "uses their money and influence to get people to help them achieve whatever it is that they're hoping to achieve or to try and turn a blind eye to whatever it is they're doing, a corrupter of men.
The Fifth Estate team had been sued twice in civil court by then, and then in Nygard charged us privately with criminal libel in connection with a documentary by The Fifth Estate that reported he had psychologically abused employees and exposed allegations of sexual misconduct at his home in the Bahamas. If found guilty, the maximum penalty for The Fifth Estate team was five years in a federal prison.
The original CBC investigation into Nygard began in Over the next 14 months, The Fifth Estate spoke to dozens of former Nygard employees. The team also dealt with a series of strange incidents. A vehicle was parked outside the home of a member of the team, with a man watching for three days and a strange computerized voice on our cellphones that said someone was recording our calls.
While there is no way to know if Nygard was connected to these events, another incident can be traced to the legal team representing him at the time. CBC could see the originated from the individual's , but when he was contacted, he was adamant he never wrote or sent it. And then he laughed. They were described as a chance for Bahamian women and girls to relax and have fun. Staff coaxed women to attend the parties, saying Nygard was searching for models.
Michelle May, who managed properties at Nygard Cay in with her husband, told The Fifth Estate back in that "the pamper parties had nothing to do with trying to find a model. One of the people invited to a pamper party in was a year-old from the Dominican Republic. Her name was Maribel Rodriguez. Three sources told The Fifth Estate something happened to her late one night that frightened Rodriguez. The lawyers also threatened criminal prosecution if the story proceeded. CBC broadcast the story in April , including the allegation that something happened late one night at Nygard Cay that frightened Rodriguez.
Next, the CBC found itself the target of an elaborate undercover investigation, in an attempt to undermine our reporting, with no effect. It was followed by a copyright case and a civil case for defamation. While our investigative efforts had begun, for the first time, to peel back the truth about Nygard in the Bahamas in , it was many years before there would be more reporting about sexual misconduct in the Bahamas. It circles the block. As it rolls by a second time, two men get out and throw a flaming object into a car belonging to Rev. Our office was broken into. It was frightening but it didn't deter us … we were not going to be intimidated.
Moss had teamed up with an environmental group called Save the Bays, which was taking on Nygard and his effort to expand his beachfront. Nygard was dredging sand from the seabed and piling it around the edges of his property, creating a large swath of beach where none had been before.
In , the Bahamian government ordered Nygard to stop dredging and return the area to its former state. Then, in , the political party Nygard had been supporting, the PLP, came into power. By , Nygard still had not followed the government's order. Save The Bays, backed in part by his neighbour Louis Bacon, decided to sue in an attempt to force Nygard to comply. Over the next several years, the fight wound its way through the courts in the Bahamas.
The battle became bitter and public, spilling onto the streets. Bahamians held protests attacking the group taking on Nygard. Then, one day, Smith said, he was physically assaulted by a group of men at a beach near Nygard's estate. When he and others probed deeper into who was behind the protests and violence, two local men confessed, swearing affidavits in a court case claiming Nygard had been paying them to threaten members of the group.
They were knocking on the door of being up there. They are serious, very intimidating, very streetwise, very well-connected. Added Smith: "It got nasty enough for Mr. Nygard, according to our allegations, to hire very dangerous men to kill us. Three months later, with the legal battle over the beaches still raging, the PLP government lost power to another party, the FNM.
By late , Nygard was back in the news. Six women had gone to Bahamian police and accused him of rape.Sexual encounters Bahamas
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