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Crown presses Peter Nygard to admit he had interactions with sex assault complainants

Peter Nygard was repeatedly pressed by the prosecution on Wednesday to admit he had interactions with some of the complainants accusing him of sexual assault, allegations the one-time Canadian fashion mogul continued to deny.

Nygard has told court that he doesn’t recall four of the five women complainants, all of whom have alleged that they were attacked by him in his private bedroom suite at his Toronto headquarters during a period spanning the late 1980s to 2005.

But he has also insisted that he couldn’t have committed the acts he’s accused of because it’s not the type of behaviour he would ever engage in.

“You told [the first complainant to testify] that you wanted her to be your girlfriend, right?” Crown prosecutor Neville Golwalla asked Nygard during his trial in Toronto on Wednesday.

“No I certainly did not, ” Nygard said.

“And we heard from her that she wasn’t particularly interested after a couple of dates. You remember those dates, right?” Golwalla asked.

A courtroom sketch of two men, an older man in the witness box and another in lawyer's robes.
A courtroom sketch shows Nygard, left, and Crown prosecutor Neville Golwalla during the accused’s first day of cross-examination at his trial, in Toronto on Tuesday. (Pam Davies/CBC)

“No, I do not remember those dates,” Nygard said.

Golwalla then referred to the testimony of the fifth complainant to appear in court, telling Nygard that he had told her that “she would become your girlfriend, right?”

“Not right,” Nygard said.

“And that you’d be having sex all night long, correct?”

“That’s not correct,” Nygard said.

Assaults ‘didn’t happen,’ Nygard testifies

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 Toronto jury trial, which began in late September.

The Crown contends that in the five cases — which involve women who were between age 16 and their late 20s at the time — Nygard used his power and status to lure them to his downtown Toronto office building, located at 1 Niagara St.

Last week, during questioning by his lawyer, Brian Greenspan, Nygard told the court he couldn’t recall four of the five complainants but denied he committed any of the alleged assaults, saying he would never engage in such behaviour.

During cross-examination on Wednesday, Golwalla told Nygard that he says he doesn’t remember these incidents happening and that because he can’t remember, “they didn’t happen.”

Nygard again repeated that he couldn’t have engaged in such acts because he would not have conducted himself “in that kind of manner.”

Golwalla also zeroed in on some of the details provided by the complainants about how they met Nygard, which, they told court, culminated in being attacked.

‘Worm on a hook’

The fourth woman to testify had told court that she met Nygard on a flight and that after some brief conversation — and despite her lack of experience — he offered her a job importing and exporting textiles, tripling her salary.

She said they scheduled a time to meet, but before they met, he invited her to go to Finland for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Nygard had testified that the anniversary was two years after the complainant said she met Nygard and that he never went to Finland for the celebration.

But Golwalla said that Nygard could have made that invitation whether or not he was sincere about it.

“If I wasn’t going to Finland, I wouldn’t be making such a suggestion,” Nygard said.

Golwalla said it would have been a “perfect ruse in which to entice someone to get them excited about an opportunity in your company.”

Nygard suggested that if it was his plan to make up an invitation to go to Finland, it would have backfired had she actually agreed to go with him.

Golwalla said: “If I put a worm on a hook, fish might just bite. That’s how people fish, a lure.”

But Nygard denied he “put any worm on a hook.”

‘Makes absolutely no business sense’

Golwalla circled back to the fifth woman to testify, who had told the court that she met Nygard at a club in Hull, Que., told him about her interest in the fashion industry and that he said he could help her out.

Golwalla suggested to Nygard that he asked for her number and that it would have made sense for him to do so because he was in an open relationship at the time and she was trying to develop her fashion business.

But Nygard said he would never have gotten into business with someone or taken their phone number just because he was attracted to them. 

“That makes absolutely no business sense whatsoever,” he said. “That would be suicidal for a business.”

The upper part of a glass and brick building is shown against a cloudy sky.
The former headquarters of Nygard’s now-defunct clothing company, at 1 Niagara St. in Toronto, is shown in September. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Well maybe, sir, using the business as a context or a pretext for getting someone’s phone number has nothing to do with what your business interests are,” Golwalla said.

Nygard said he wasn’t interested in the woman whatsoever, to which Golwalla shot back: “So you remember the woman.”

But Nygard denied he remembered her.

He was also asked about the December 1989 Rolling Stones concert that the first complainant said she attended with Nygard, the night of the alleged attack.

Nygard again, as he had done under questioning from his lawyer, Greenspan, denied going to that concert or to any event at what was then the SkyDome.

Golwalla asked Nygard about his comments to police during his interview that it was his habit to go to key concerts and whether he would have considered the Stones playing at the SkyDome a key concert.

Nygard said it wouldn’t be to him, that he wasn’t a huge fan, but that people have different preferences.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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