A Toronto jury on Sunday found Peter Nygard, the high-profile executive behind a fallen fashion empire, guilty of four counts of sexual assault after just over three days of deliberation at the end of a six-week trial.
He was found not guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement. His sentencing date will be set later this month. The maximum prison sentence for sexual assault in Canada is 10 years.
The verdict represents the first criminal conviction against Mr. Nygard, 82, who has been in jail for the last two years. He is also expected to stand trial on charges of sex crimes next June in Montreal, and in Winnipeg, where a trial date has not been set.
At the conclusion of the Canadian proceedings, Mr. Nygard will be extradited to New York to face sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other charges in a nine-count indictment. Mr. Nygard appealed the New York extradition ruling in Winnipeg — his hometown and the former base of Nygard International, his clothing company — citing poor health, but the court has not yet issued its decision.
In Toronto, the jury delivered its verdict to a full courtroom. Seated in a front-row bench was one of Mr. Nygard’s sons, Kai Bickle, who said outside the courthouse that he had renounced his father’s last name and had participated in the investigation against him.
“It’s not a good brand association to be the son of a monster,” said Mr. Bickle. “I lost everything. I walked away from an inheritance to do the right thing.”
“I loved my father,” he added. “It hurts me to see all these things.”
Five women, whose testimony made up the bulk of the prosecution’s evidence in the Toronto trial, testified that they were lured by Mr. Nygard to a personal bedroom suite in his Toronto headquarters under false pretenses, such as receiving a building tour, and sexually assaulted. The complainants were between the ages of 16 and 28 during the attacks, which they accused Mr. Nygard of committing between the 1980s and 2005. Their names are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
“It’s something that has tainted my life,” said one complainant, now in her 60s, who first accused Mr. Nygard in 1998 of raping her nearly a decade earlier. She dropped her complaint to Toronto police soon after, fearing reprisal from the fashion mogul after she learned that his chief security officer flew to Toronto to canvass for information about her identity, she said.
Another woman, a former employee, broke into tears while testifying that Mr. Nygard had sexually assaulted her during a party at the Toronto office, where he had hired her to work as a hostess.
“I don’t know why somebody would hire me and just do that to me,” she said, adding that she did not tell anyone what had happened. “He’s so wealthy and so powerful, who would believe me?”
Mr. Nygard was acquitted in relation to her sexual assault charge.
The women were not in the courtroom, but Shannon Moroney, a therapist representing them and other women in a class action against Mr. Nygard, called some of them from outside the courthouse with the verdict.
“It’s always so many different emotions,” Ms. Moroney said after relaying the news. “It’s relief. It’s victory. It’s joy. It’s pain. It’s disappointment. This is a battle won in a much bigger war.”
Lawyers for the prosecution and the defense spent much of their time mining the memories of the people on the stand, including Mr. Nygard, who testified in his own defense for about a week.
He persistently denied the accusations and said that he did not remember ever meeting four of the complainants, but said that he recognized his former employee. Mr. Nygard’s testimony was marked by frequent bouts of what he called “short-term memory loss,” though prosecutors questioned his ability to remember, in great detail, other facts.
Where his memory failed him, Mr. Nygard told jurors that the sexual assaults and rapes described by the women were not in his character.
“My position is that I would not have conducted myself in that kind of manner,” Mr. Nygard said, responding to the prosecutors’ assertions that he had sought out contact information from some complainants and offered to help their careers.
“I would not have been taking numbers from some female who was trying to be approaching me,” Mr. Nygard said. “This is a suicidal kind of thing in front of the media, and that’s a total no-no.”
Ana Serban, a prosecutor, characterized Mr. Nygard’s testimony as evasive, inconsistent and wrong.
“His memory was unreliable as well as selective,” Ms. Serban said in her closing argument to the jury. “You should have no difficulty rejecting his blanket denials.”
Records that would have assisted Mr. Nygard’s rebuttals, he said, had burned in “a mysterious fire” at a former warehouse in Winnipeg about 10 days before his arrest in October 2021. The building was put in receivership by a court after his company filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
“The only thing that was lost was the paper records that the receiver had put into this shed under their control,” Mr. Nygard said, adding that a hacking incident that year had compromised his electronic records as well. But he insisted that he tried to help the police investigation by participating in an 11-hour interview with a Toronto detective.
The guilty verdict comes after Brian Greenspan, a lawyer for the defense, urged the jury during closing arguments on Tuesday to reject the “revisionist histories of events” told by the five women and the prosecution’s narrative of Mr. Nygard’s “Jekyll and Hyde personality.”
Four of the women are involved in a class action against Mr. Nygard in the United States, a point raised by the defense during cross-examination to suggest that the women were fabricating their stories for a shot at financial gain. “Gold digging runs deep,” Mr. Greenspan said of one complainant’s testimony.
The civil action is yet another legal battlefront for Mr. Nygard. In May, he was ordered by a New York State judge to pay $203 million in defamation suit damages to Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire whose feud with Mr. Nygard began over a property dispute in the Bahamas and spiraled into two decades of legal sparring.
Mr. Nygard attributed the stamina he kept throughout his high-octane way of life — glamorous parties, trips around the world in his private plane, being in the company of dignitaries — to his obsession with health. He told jurors that he avoided sugary and starchy food, didn’t take drugs or smoke, and maintained an active lifestyle that left him flush with energy despite often working 18-hour days.
Mr. Nygard wore a black suit and orange-tinted glasses, and his signature long hair was in a low bun for the duration of the trial. He was visibly relaxed for most of his testimony, sometimes laughing at his own remarks, and spoke with confidence about his effort to learn one new word per day.
But he said he didn’t know the word “Cognac,” the type of brandy that the youngest victim testified Mr. Nygard served to her before he raped her when she was 16.
“I certainly would not want to learn a liquor word,” Mr. Nygard said during his cross-examination.
In her closing argument, Ms. Serban, the prosecutor, cited the exchange as an example of why the jury should not rely on Mr. Nygard’s testimony.
“Here’s a man who enjoys the finer things in life,” she said. “Someone with a taste for luxury. He wants to give his guests the best experience, and he will have you believe that he doesn’t know the word ‘Cognac’?”