Peter Nygard, the flamboyant foreign fashion designer whose life has played out like a Spanish telenovela – rife with scandal, fiery feuds, an alleged murder conspiracy and more plot twists than Citizen Kane, is out of favour with the courts again. It’s yet another reminder that our nation needs to be careful about the company it keeps.
Just last week, Justice Ruth Bowe-Darville sentenced the Finnish-Canadian fashion designer to 90 days in prison after he was found in contempt for violating an injunction that barred him from publishing emails that were stolen from Save The Bays, a local environmental advocacy group. He didn’t even bother to show up for the hearing.
Nygard has seven days to pay the $150,000 fine. If he doesn’t, he’ll spend an additional 30 days in prison. The fine will also increase by $5,000 for each day that it remains unpaid.
No Surprise Here
We’ve seen this all before. Nygard has repeatedly demonstrated an attitude that suggests he is above the law and more importantly answers to no one. He has a history of defying court orders and in 2013, ignored injunctions banning him from dredging at his Nygard Cay compound in Lyford Cay.
Environmentalists say that dredging interrupted the natural flow of sand to a national park, leaving his neighbours, including billionaire hedge fund manager, Louis Bacon – the ever present thorn in Nygard’s tanned side – with rocky shorefronts while his shorefront became more sandy.
It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, Nygard was a respected investor and philanthropist. Since 2000, the sports enthusiast has donated to associations, teams and athletes who had made their mark internationally. He has gifted many athletes, including the ‘Golden Knights’ with thousands of dollars and was widely considered a ‘friend of The Bahamas.’
Nygard was also applauded for welcoming everyday Bahamians who might have never had an opportunity to go behind the steel gates of Lyford Cay had he not extended an invitation.
Inner-city children and athletes were often welcome guests. Not welcome, however, were Nygard’s famed wild and loud parties at his Mayan-themed compound.
These days, the aging fashion designer, claims he is the “victim of a massive international conspiracy” carried out by his rival, Bacon with whom he continues to fight in international court.
Risking It All
Sadly, too many Bahamians, from politicians, to activists, to journalists – the very people sworn to uphold truth – have taken reputational hits to support Nygard.
They were so enamored with the opportunity to benefit financially from the designer that their better judgment went out the window, and it cost them dearly.
Former ZNS reporter, Sherman Brown admitted in court to publishing false and defamatory allegations about Bacon for five years at the behest of Nygard and his former attorney, Keod Smith. And he was paid for it. He also admitted that while at ZNS, he moonlighted for Nygard to further a smear campaign against Bacon.
In 2017, Supreme Court judge, Rhonda Bain, ruled that Jones Communications Network CEO, Wendall Jones was also involved in the smear campaign. A total of 47 emails and documents exposed collusion between Nygard and Jones regarding the publication of a series of negative stories about Bacon. As part of the settlement, Jones was forced to issue a front page apology to the hedge fund manager.
Both longtime journalists risked their reputation when they got involved in a pissing match between two wealthy Lyford Cay residents, and for what?
In 2014, then-Free National Movement Chairman, Darron Cash suggested that then-Prime Minister Perry Christie’s link with Nygard could not be “good for The Bahamas.” He also suggested that the Christie administration was bowing to rich foreign investors at the expense of the country.
Cash said Nygard projected an attitude that he “owns” the country and the government.
It didn’t help that two years prior when the Christie-led Progressive Liberal Party won the 2012 General Election, Nygard, in a YouTube video, said “we got our government back.” He also claimed that he wrote legislation and directed the Christie administration to pass stem cell legislation.
Nygard, in an affidavit, stated that he was a “major backer” for the PLP. He even publicly said that he preferred Christie to former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
The Need For Campaign Finance Reform
This is precisely why campaign finance reform needs to be a top priority for the Minnis administration and Bahamians should demand it.
Nobody, including foreign investors, should feel like they are able to buy the government due to their campaign financing.
Considering all of the players involved and how they were all publicly impacted due to their affiliation with Nygard, one would hope that they have learned a valuable lesson on how to properly deal with other investors.
Not all money is good money and some investors bring more trouble than benefit. We need to put a cap on how much philanthropic dollars we accept from one investor in a calendar year, too. And that goes for everyone.
I think we can safely say that Nygard won’t be returning to The Bahamas ever again unless he is extradited here. This won’t be the last time we hear about him.