Fashion mogul Peter Nygard hits back over Bahamas lawsuit

Canadian fashion clothier Peter Nygard is fighting back over claims that he is altering the ecosystem on a bay around his lavish Bahamas estate.
A statement from Peter Nygard includes a photograph that the Canadian fashion mogul says shows him, left, with actor Sean Connery, who is part of a group of celebrity landowners that is suing the Bahamian government over the Canadian fashion mogul's development activities. (Peter Nygard)

Canadian fashion clothier Peter Nygard is fighting back over claims that he is altering the ecosystem on a bay around his lavish Bahamas estate.

A group of celebrity landowners that includes actor Sean Connery and politician Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and a local environment group that share the Canadian fashion mogul's exclusive neighbourhood in the Bahamas, have filed two lawsuits against the Bahamian government, decrying Nygard’s development activities.

While Nygard is not named as a party in the lawsuit, he has denied the allegations in a statement sent to CBC News by his Winnipeg-based lawyer on Thursday evening.

"Peter Nygard has been a champion of the Bahamas and specifically the preservation of Simms Point and Jaws Beach for more than 30 years," the statement reads in part.

"Mr. Nygard fully supports protecting the environment of the Bahamas. It is the natural beauty of the island which led him to choose this country for his home. "

His lawyer added that the current judicial review applications are "an attempt to change the government process. They present no new environmental assessments."

Estate development at issue

Save the Bays, which says it is devoted to Bahamas ecology preservation, claims in court documents that Nygard has gradually increased the size of the estate he bought in 1984 by 2.85 acres through his unauthorized development activities.

This, the group says, has effectively doubled the size of Nygard's property.

This June 30 photograph by the group Save the Bays shows development on Simms Point, also known as Nygard Cay, in the Bahamas. (Save the Bays)
The statement from Nygard said he has been "more than patient" during the review and assessment process.

"In 2010, Mr. Nygard made an application to the government for permits regarding the reconstruction of his private residence. Since filing for the permits, Mr. Nygard has fully co-operated during a long wait period of four years," his statement reads.

"The required environmental assessments have been completed and are in the hands of the government, including the most recent assessment completed in February 2014. These assessments confirm that there has never been any adverse environmental impact caused by Nygard activities."

Save the Bays says Nygard built non-permitted structures onto natural coral, constructed breakwaters that deplete sand from nearby beaches, and used sand dredged from the ocean floor for the "substantial expansion of land mass."

Nygard accuses neighbour of 'continual attacks'

Nygard claims that the his application has been "used inappropriately" by Save the Bays, which he described as "an organization that is the front for the very secretive Louis Bacon, who is the owner of Moore Capital Management."

"As Mr. Nygard's immediate neighbour in Lyford Cay, Mr. Bacon has orchestrated continual attacks on Mr. Nygard for many years," Nygard's statement reads in part.

"Louis Bacon has always wanted Nygard Cay for himself and Mr. Nygard has never been interested in selling his home. Over 10 years ago, Louis Bacon told Mr. Nygard that he would 'get it one way or another.' Now Save The Bays is focusing on the re-building of a private home while publicly stating their issue is the government process. This tactic led by Louis Bacon is a complete farce and an improper manipulation of the public process to acquire Nygard Cay."

Save the Bays acknowledges that Bacon is a large funder of the organization, but the group says it is involved in a number of ecological issues throughout the Caribbean and is not targeting Nygard specifically.

The Bahamian Ministry of the Environment had no comment on the case.

In mid-June, the Bahamian government announced plans for public consultations about Nygard’s restoration and expansion plans for his property, known as Nygard Cay.

According to Save the Bays' claim, Nygard is trying to retroactively get approval for buildings he built on Crown land.

The government invited public consultation for 21 days, and that process has ended.

Legal challenges filed on Monday

On Monday, Save the Bays and the star-studded group of landowners filed two legal challenges and are calling for a judicial review of Nygard’s continued development, claiming the process is "fundamentally flawed."

They are seeking an order halting the development process until other litigation against Nygard is determined.

None of the allegations brought by the two groups have been proven in court.

In his statement, Nygard said he has shared his property with numerous celebrities and dignitaries, including Connery, who is named in the landowners' lawsuit.

Nygard even released a photograph of him and Connery together.

"Peter Nygard became a Bahamian in the early 80s. He is an environmentalist, a humanitarian and has been described as the most philanthropic champion for the Bahamian people," the statement reads in part.

"Currently, in addition to substantial donations, Peter Nygard has also given the full use of his home to the Bahamian National Defence Force, who is working in partnership with the Clifton Heritage Foundation in the running of a six-week summer camp for 700 inner city kids, which is being hosted presently at Nygard Cay."

Read the statement and lawsuit documents

Read Peter Nygard's full statement below, as well as the lawsuit documents filed against the Bahamian government by Save the Bays and the group of landowners.