Peter Nygard
From left, Yves Laurent, Peter Nygard and Melisa Marie Jackson Image Credit: AFP

Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was denied bail by a Manitoba judge Friday, meaning he could spend years in jail while fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces charges of sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other crimes that are said to have victimized dozens of women and teenage girls.

The 79-year-old multimillionaire is accused of using his company's influence, money and employees to recruit adult and "minor-aged female victims" over a 25-year period in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada for his sexual gratification and that of his associates, according to a nine-count federal indictment filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, New York, in December.

Nygard has been in jail in Winnipeg, Manitoba, since his arrest last Dec. 14.

"Keeping him in the jail in this time of COVID-19 is nothing short of a death sentence," his lawyer Jay Prober told the court last month.

In her oral decision, Justice Shawn Greenberg said she had no confidence that Nygard would comply with a bail order to have no contact with witnesses in the suit against him.

And while she had taken into account the high rates of COVID-19 in prison and Nygard's failing health, Greenberg said, the pandemic "is not a get-out-of-jail-free card."

Until last year, Nygard was head of a multinational women's fashion company, Nygard International, that he owned privately and built from scratch. It was known mostly for selling leggings and tops to middle-aged women through its own outlets and department stores and at its peak claimed 12,000 employees.

It made Nygard very rich. In 2014, Canadian Business magazine estimated his wealth at $750 million.

After federal authorities raided his home in Los Angeles and corporate headquarters in New York in February 2020, Nygard stepped down. His company then filed for bankruptcy in Canada and in the United States.

Nygard appeared in court via video link from jail, wearing a face mask and jail-issued gray blue shirt. He sat still, staring straight ahead and offering no physical reaction upon hearing the judge's decision.