Peter Nygard, the Canadian fashion magnate best known in hedge fund circles for his bitter feud with Moore Capital Management founder Louis Bacon, was arrested in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Tuesday on racketeering, sex trafficking, and related charges.
U.S. federal prosecutors accused Nygard, 79, of using “force, fraud, and coercion to cause women and minors to have sex” with him, friends and business associates, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan. The accusations involve dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas, and Canada, among other locations, and date back to 1995. Nygard frequently targeted women and minor-aged girls who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds or who had a history of abuse, the government alleged.
“He controlled his victims through threats, false promises of modeling opportunities and other career advancement, financial support, and by other coercive means, including constant surveillance, restrictions of movement, and physical isolation,” the government said in a statement. In some cases the women were assaulted or drugged, the government alleged.
The arrest caps a bitter, years-long feud between Nygard and Bacon — his neighbor in an exclusive enclave of the Bahamas — that resulted in dozens of lawsuits, millions of dollars of legal fees, and outlandish accusations.
“I hope that the news of Mr. Nygard’s arrest brings some needed comfort to the many courageous women and girls who have suffered in silence for far too long,” Bacon said in a statement to Institutional Investor. “Many of these victims have pleaded for years for their voices to be heard and for justice to be done. On their behalf, I hope that this is the first step towards justice.”
A spokesman for Nygard did not return a call seeking comment.
Bacon’s fight with Nygard initially centered on conservation issues and noise complaints, with the hedge fund manager accusing Nygard of blasting loud music and other noise pollution from his property, according to earlier reports in the Bahamas Tribune.
But then things escalated. In 2010 armed plainclothes police officers entered Bacon’s home looking for lethal “ultrasonic weaponry,” according to a report. Bacon was not home at the time, but the police reportedly handcuffed and body-searched household staff for over three hours, before confiscating a set of industrial loudspeakers that were returned later that day. The loudspeakers were being used to send piercing, annoying sound waves to Nygard’s property. The fight grew more acrimonious and the accusations more salacious, according to a lengthy 2015 Vanity Fair story about the saga.
Then in 2018 Institutional Investor reported that the Supreme Court of the Bahamas seized Nygard’s property after Save the Bays, a local nonprofit that seeks to protect the environment, won a legal victory. The Bahamian non-profit, which received funding from Bacon, had sued Nygard in 2013 for illegal dredging.
The dredging, which was part of the expansion of Nygard’s property, disrupted the natural flow of sand to a national park and left Nygard’s neighbors’ shorefronts in increasingly rocky condition, all while his own property became sandier, according to Fred Smith, an attorney at Callenders & Co. who represented Save the Bays. Bacon was a director of Save the Bays and was among the property owners allegedly harmed by Nygard's construction activities.
In January 2019 a Bahamas judge issued a warrant for Nygard’s arrest for failing to appear in court on multiple occasions for a sentencing hearing related to two contempt of court convictions, after Nygard was found repeatedly ignoring a 2013 injunction that banned him from dredging, according to Canada’s National Post newspaper.
Nygard was eventually sentenced to 90 days in jail and fined $150,000. But Nygard, who remained in Canada, told the Supreme Court of the Bahamas he was too ill to travel, according to a separate report by the National Post.
Earlier this year, Bacon’s allegations against Nygard turned more serious. According to a New York Times story in February, “Lawyers and investigators funded in part by Mr. Bacon claim that Mr. Nygard raped teenage girls in the Bahamas.” That month, lawyers filed a federal suit in New York on behalf of ten women who accused Nygard of sexual assault, the Times reported. Bacon’s associates spent two years finding women to bring claims against the fashion mogul, according to the Times report.
“I admire the brave women who had the courage to share their stories with The New York Times,” Bacon said in the statement to II. “I was not looking for this fight, but once I heard repeated, credible reports from disgusted whistleblowers that Mr. Nygard was abusing young, vulnerable women, I could not ignore this disturbing information. I sought to help and empower the alleged victims by connecting them with appropriate law enforcement authorities. That is where this matter belongs.”
The article pointed out that Bacon and Nygard’s combined wealth was close to the annual budget of the Bahamian government.