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Canadian judge denies fashion designer Nygard bail in U.S. extradition case

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Actress Pamela Anderson signs an autograph for fan Juha Nurmi while Finnish-born fashion designer Peter Nygard looks on at the Raumanmeri midsummer festival in Rauma, Finland, June 22, 2007. Picture taken June 22, 2007. Lehtikuva/Roni Rekomaa via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN FINLAND.

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard was denied bail on Friday by a judge in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on a U.S. extradition request over charges of sex trafficking and racketeering.

Canadian police arrested Nygard in Winnipeg on Dec. 14 at the request of U.S. officials under the countries' extradition treaty.

Nygard faces nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering in the United States. Nygard, who appeared in court by video, has denied the allegations.

Justice Shawn Greenberg said she was concerned Nygard, 79, could tamper with witnesses if released from jail.

His lawyers had argued that poor health left Nygard vulnerable if he were to be infected by the new coronavirus in prison, but Greenberg said that did not automatically qualify him for release.

"It is not a get-out-of-jail-free card," the judge said.

U.S. authorities accuse Nygard of using his businesses to recruit victims in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas since 1995 to sexually gratify himself and his associates.

Born in Finland, Nygard grew up in Manitoba, eventually running his namesake clothing companies and becoming one of Canada's wealthiest people.

Nygard gave no discernible reaction to the decision.

Prosecutors had argued the charges were too serious to release Nygard.

U.S. officials have not yet provided full evidence disclosure to Canada, and the Canadian justice ministry still must decide whether the case warrants a formal extradition hearing.

Lawyer Greg Gutzler, who represents women in a U.S. lawsuit against Nygard, said the decision was a first step toward justice.

"We thank the court for recognizing the imminent danger that he and his myriad conspirators pose to society."

Nygard is accused of having recruited victims at company-funded "pamper parties" in Marina del Rey in California and the Bahamas.

Last year, Nygard resigned as chairman of Nygard International after the FBI raided its New York headquarters.

The company filed for bankruptcy in March.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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