Peter Nygard
Peter Nygard, centre, with Yves Laurent and Melisa Marie Jackson (File photo for illustrative purposes only) Image Credit: AFP

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard says never met accusers in rape trial

OTTAWA: Finnish-Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, on trial in Toronto for alleged serial rapes, on Thursday testified that he did not know his accusers.

The 82-year-old founder of Nygard International has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting four women and a 16-year-old girl in Canada's largest city between 1988 and 2005.

Asked a series of pointed questions by his defense attorney, Brian Greenspan, including if he knew or ever crossed paths with his accusers, he answered over and over, in a soft voice: "No."

He refuted the complainants' testimonies put to him by Greenspan about sending flowers to them, flirting with them on planes, offering them jobs or career help, or taking them on tours of his Toronto offices.

"No I did not. It was not my habit at all to be sending flowers quite frankly to anyone," Nygard said in one of his more detailed answers.

His other responses on the stand included: "No, of course not. That's ridiculous," and "No, I don't remember anything like that."

The prosecution has accused Nygard of having used his "power and status as a wealthy fashion designer to lure and sexually assault young women."

Five women have said Nygard invited them to his opulent offices in Toronto on the pretense of modeling or designing opportunities, or for a fashion industry party, only to find themselves "trapped" in a top floor bedroom suite, where they alleged he preyed on them.

Nygard said he did not recognize his accusers in police photos, nor when they testified at the trial, and rejected claims he pinned any of them on his bed or ripped off their clothes.

"No. I would have never done such an act. It's something I would never have done," he insisted.

He also denied that he had "boxes and boxes" of condoms stored in his private bedroom suite in Toronto, as one complainant testified.

And, he appeared baffled by another's claim: "It doesn't make even sense what she's talking about."

Nygard faces more sexual assault charges in Quebec and Manitoba, as well as extradition to the United States, where he has been accused of raping dozens of women and girls, racketeering and trafficking.

He is expected to continue his testimony at the Toronto trial on Friday.