Evil By Design: The seedy world of Peter Nygard

CBC Podcasts

Neverland Ranch, Little St. James, and Nygard Cay. There must be a study somewhere about the shared psychology of wealthy sex perverts driven to build private fantasy lands that function as Venus fly traps for their (often) poor and (always) vulnerable sexual prey.

Nygard Cay, the lesser known of the three, is the primary setting for Evil By Design, a podcast that examines the unpalatable lifestyle of fashion mogul and self-proclaimed “playboy” (read: deviant), Peter Nygard. The eight episode series uses staggering first-person testimony — including from Nygard’s own son — to expose the businessman’s alleged multi-decade exploitation of young females at the Bahaman resort as well as global locations, including his native Canada.

In total, more than 80 women have accused the mogul of rape, sexual assault, and trafficking. If convicted he would be classified as a career offender, and perhaps one of the worst on record.

Nygard was just indicted late last year. It was the end of a long chain reaction initiated by ten (mainly) Bahamian girls, all of whom accuse the creepy fashion designer of assaulting them in their teens. Host Timothy Sawa starts here, at the end, with the brave “Jane Does” that have spoken out in spite of Nygard’s power and influence on their home island.

Some of the conditions for this Nygard case are, sadly, familiar. Low-wage local officials effectively taken onto the payroll of rich foreigners. Blind eyes and open secrets about abuse and excess. Years and years of complicity from insiders and enablers. Young women drawn in only to be unceremoniously spat out like used commodities. Key witnesses paid or strong-armed into lying to protect the powerful. Sinister threats issued to truth-seekers.

The threats get too close for comfort even for Sawa himself as he finds himself pursued by Nygard’s hired henchmen, as well as the courts acting at the mogul’s behest. Along with his CBC colleagues, Sawa is at one stage landed with extensive criminal charges only to learn that Nygard let slip the dogs of war in the shape of his own team of undercover investigators unleashed to ensnare CBC’s investigations team.

This is reporting that took integrity and some considerable nerve to see through.

In the end Nygard comes off as vile without Sawa ever needing to state this overtly. Rather, he treads gently in drawing harrowing tales from multiple alleged victims, carefully but clearly exposing a monster’s MO. Sawa also gives deserved respect to the young Bahamian nationals that have alternately been mistreated, disbelieved, and disrespected for pointing the finger.

Further validation — if it was needed — comes directly from the Nygard family, and an astonishing interview with Kai Nygard. The accused’s son not only lends the full weight of his support to the women involved, but also reinforces the narrative with his own horrifying stories of Nygard’s warped sexual proclivities.

This isn’t light listening, but it is quality, meaningful journalism. In a world of Weinsteins and Epsteins and Cosbys and R Kellys, it’s easy for us to become numb to depressing tales of female oppression — but we absolutely mustn’t. Work like this reminds us why.

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