For weeks, a Toronto courtroom has heard graphic and disturbing testimony from five women all claiming they were sexually assaulted by the one-time Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
On Wednesday, Nygard, 82, took the witness box at his trial to defend himself.
It’s the first time the jurors are hearing from Nygard.
Nygard has pleaded not guilty in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement. Justice Robert Goldstein is presiding over the jury trial.
Nygard’s defence lawyer Brian Greenspan spent the morning going over biographical details about his client, including details about how he moved to Manitoba with his family as a young boy from Finland, and how he worked his way up to establish his fashion empire.
He was also asked about his past relationships and told court that he was married once, at the age of 28. But that marriage lasted for only three years because he was “married to his work.”
Asked whether he had relationships following the breakup of his marriage, Nygard said, “Of course, I’m a human being.”
Greenspan asked Nygard if these relationships were short- or long- term. Nygard replied that because he was constantly travelling his relationships tended to be with women he was travelling with, and if they stopped accompanying him on trips, they would drift apart.
Nygard also acknowledged issues with recalling some details. At one point, Nygard had difficulty remembering the age of his daughter, Bianca, and blamed it on short-term memory loss, something he said has occurred since he turned 78.
“I recommend not to get old, it’s not a good disease,” he said.
‘Unequivocal and emphatic denial’
On Tuesday, Greenspan began his defence with an opening statement to the jury, informing them he’d be calling Nygard to the witness box. He said his client would offer an “unequivocal and emphatic denial” that he engaged in any sexual misconduct with the five women who have claimed they were assaulted.
Nygard wore a black suit, white shirt and no tie with black-rimmed glasses and with his white hair pulled back in a bun.
The Crown contends that in the five cases — which cover a period from the late 1980s to 2005, and involve women ranging in age from 16 to their late 20s — Nygard used his power and status to lure them to his downtown Toronto office building, located at 1 Niagara Street.
Once there, Nygard often provided a tour of the building, which would end in his private bedroom suite that included a giant bed, televisions on walls and a Jacuzzi, court has heard.
And it’s inside that suite, the Crown alleges — backed by each of the five women who have testified — that Nygard would attack and sexually assault them.
Nygard reaffirmed what had previously been heard in court: that he had private suites in other office buildings he owned, to be used by either employees or those coming in to visit.
Nygard said having such suites saved time for himself and others who were visiting and didn’t need to commute from a hotel to the office.
Nygard says he doesn’t remember carrying cash
Although much of the day was been spent covering Nygard’s biographical details, Greenspan did make reference to previous testimony by the five complainants.
For example, Nygard was asked him if any part of his Bahamas property was used for secret sexual conduct.
Nygard said that was “insane.”
Nygard also said he couldn’t recall ever paying any of his employees by cash or carrying cash on him. That denial related to the third complainant, who was a hostess for Nygard at a party at 1 Niagara and said she had been paid in cash.