Kai Bickle's world came tumbling down one night in May 2019, when he attended a dinner party at a lavishly decorated mansion overlooking the golden sands of Venice Beach in Los Angeles.
The host was his father, Peter Nygard, a Canadian fashion tycoon famed for the hedonistic lifestyle he pursued at a global portfolio of high-end properties, including vast residences in Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, as well as New York, Hong Kong and, most notoriously, a Mayan-themed 'private luxury resort' in the Bahamas.
Modelling himself on Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the flamboyant Nygard, now 79, kept a revolving harem of girlfriends. Those caught up (often completely unwittingly) in this web had included actresses Susan Anton and Jennifer O'Neill, stripper-turned-reality star Anna Nicole Smith, and a former Wheel Of Fortune card turner by the name of Vanna White.
His Caribbean parties, meanwhile, tended to attract a better class of A-lister. Past visitors to the island property had ranged from Jane Seymour and Bo Derek to Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Michael Jackson and Joan Collins, not to mention Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who were photographed there in the early 2000s on an innocuous family holiday.
The 2019 bash, during one of Peter's occasional business trips to LA, was to be a more down-to-earth affair. Roughly 20 guests, including Kai, 38, and his younger brother Jessar (one of roughly ten offspring Nygard has fathered via more than seven women) had been invited for food and drinks, followed by a late-night poker game.
Private club: Nygard partying with girls in the Bahamas
That was the plan, at least. But Kai never made it to the card- table. Instead, he fled the lavish premises in a state of distress, shortly after dinner, believing that he had just witnessed his father attempting to sexually assault an eight-year-old girl.
Details of this ugly development are (it should be stressed) strongly disputed, and we shall examine them later. But the incident would kick-start an extraordinary chain of events that culminated just before Christmas, with the arrest of Peter Nygard on nine charges of sex trafficking and racketeering.
Currently behind bars, with his $900 million (£660 million) business empire in tatters and the FBI poring over his computer hard-drives, the fallen tycoon has now been accused of rape or sexual assault by at least 57 women. Several of Nygard's accusers were children when the alleged crimes took place, and many claim they were drugged.
At least 57 women have accused him.
He will appear in court in Canada next week, seeking bail as he fights extradition to the USA.
It is, perhaps, the most high-profile and shocking sex case since handcuffs were slapped on Jeffrey Epstein. And in a remarkable twist, it turns out that a leading figure in the increasingly public campaign to prosecute Mr Nygard is his aforementioned son, Kai.
Behind the scenes, I can reveal that Kai has spent the past 18 months secretly helping both the U.S. and Canadian authorities investigate his own father's alleged crimes. Keeping his role hidden from Nygard and his associates for several months, he has worked tirelessly to assist victims, and their legal teams.
On the personal front, he has changed his name (taking up his mother's surname to become Kai Zen Bickle) and used his influence over various Nygard companies to block efforts to move his assets offshore, fearing that would allow him to flee. 'We have been engaged in a brutal battle against my father and his enablers,' is how Kai summed things up when we spoke this week.
'He has become my arch-nemesis. I no longer regard him as my father . . . He is a monster. I am now here to serve in any way I can, to support survivors and the justice process and also to help expose the people who covered up his crimes.'
Family: Nygard and his son Kai
Perhaps most remarkably of all, Kai recently helped two of his younger siblings, one of whom remains a minor, to sue Peter Nygard over claims he 'engineered' the rape of his own sons.
In an extraordinary lawsuit filed in August, the boys claimed that their leathery, multi-millionaire father instructed one of his long-standing girlfriends (who was also a sex worker) to 'make a man' out of them.
The first of these alleged attacks (which, again, are vehemently denied by Nygard) took place in the Bahamas 2004, when the son was 15 and the woman was in her mid-20s. The second occurred in Winnipeg in 2018, when the younger child was 14 and the woman was in her 40s.
Court papers filed by the boys stated that the unnamed girlfriend was instructed to seduce Nygard's son by showering in his bathroom so that he 'could see her naked'. Then she raped him.
Afterwards, she allegedly told the boy he 'wasn't bad' for a 'baby.' The next morning, Nygard's girlfriend brought him breakfast in bed, kissing him on the lips and announcing: 'Mommy's got you.' Kai says he first became aware of this appalling incident last spring, and was 'sickened' to hear his brothers' claims.
He would often yell and scream at his staff.
'We all spoke and decided the best course of action was to file a lawsuit publicly in the hope that other survivors would feel safe to come forward and also file criminally against Nygard,' he says.
'We were originally going to have me in the suit as my young brother's guardian, but in the end decided not to because it would reveal to Nygard that I was working against him . . . At the time I was [secretly] doing everything I could to improve the odds that he would get arrested.'
To appreciate the extraordinary journey taken by Kai, we must wind the clock back to the mid-1980s, when his father was one of Canada's most talked-about self-made millionaires.
The son of penniless immigrants from Finland, Peter Nygard had launched his empire in the late 1960s, with an $8,000 (£6,000) investment in a struggling fashion firm. By the time he was 30, the company had become one of North America's most successful suppliers of leisure and sportswear, while his flamboyant eccentricities, which included keeping parrots in his office and filling the lobby of Nygard HQ with bronze busts of himself, turned him into an object of public fascination.
In 1987, the party-loving entrepreneur purchased a 4.5-acre patch of the island of New Providence in the Bahamas and set about turning it into a 'dream home' where he could indulge his champagne lifestyle. Over the ensuing years, he built 150,000 sq ft of Mayan-themed buildings, stretching over a dozen 'cabana-style' residences. The buildings at Nygard Cay eventually included a casino, a disco hut (with cameras beneath the dance floor, reportedly to shoot images of revellers from below), and the world's largest sauna, a 6,000 sq ft lodge made from 2ft-thick Canadian pine logs.
Nygard with Prince Andrew in the Bahamas
In the grounds were fake volcanoes that belched dry ice, a flock of peacocks, stone cobras which hissed steam at sunset, 60 ft towers festooned with hundreds of flaming torches (lit nightly by staff) and giant statues of nude women, purportedly modelled on some of Nygard's favourite girlfriends.
At weekends, he would host lavish parties, which appeared on various TV documentaries, including Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous.
The place became a magnet for freeloading celebrities and, while Kai believes they generally had the most fleeting and brief relationship with Nygard, photos of their visits were then plastered across company literature and websites.
Prince Andrew, to cite one example, was recorded for posterity wandering with the long-haired fashion magnate on the beach, wearing blue shorts and boat shoes.
Born in the 1980s, Kai spent the first three years of his life in the Bahamas until his mother, Patricia, left Nygard, with whom she'd had three children but never married.
They moved first to California and then to the Pacific Northwest in the U.S.
Over subsequent years, he had almost no regular contact with the fashion tycoon aside from occasional visits during school holidays, where he met various half-siblings.
'He would have one family weekend per year at his lake cottage, and a few days set aside for Christmas,' says Kai of the somewhat unorthodox arrangement. 'During those times, the days were filled with activities like horseback riding or mini golf.
'He could be a very charismatic person when he wanted to be and the family weekends were very light and brief.'
In the very limited time he spent with his father during childhood, Kai saw nothing that gave him reason to suspect that Peter Nygard was guilty of criminality, though he did have a highly volatile personality.
'He would yell and scream at his staff often, and that always was upsetting to everyone around it, but he would describe his yelling as 'passion' because of his 'high standards',' Kai says.
Nygard's children were further told that he 'lived a consensual, non-monogamous lifestyle,' Kai says. 'He made speeches at dinner to family when we were together to talk about how he hoped everyone got a wonderful partner and wished that he could find that special someone, but that it wasn't the life for him.
'He also had girlfriends that were persistently with him, always two or three, and often they were around for years. He wasn't embarrassed about it. He flaunted it on TV, it was part of his brand, something he showed the whole world. He was proud of it.'
Be that as it may, rumours of predatory behaviour by Nygard —and worse — had occasionally reared their ugly head, only to be quickly suppressed: a relatively easy task before the internet.
In 1980, for example, he was charged with the rape of an 18-year-old, but the charge was dropped when the complainant refused to testify. In 1996, three female employees meanwhile filed sexual harassment complaints in the Canadian province of Manitoba.
It looked like his hand was on her thigh, rubbing.
One, a 39-year-old communications manager, said that, when called into Nygard's office, she would 'find him in a state of undress . . . with his hands down the front of his pants, fondling himself.' He settled by giving the women $18,500 (£13,600) and denied any wrongdoing.
Then, in 2010, a Canadian TV network put out a Panorama-style documentary about Nygard, focusing on alleged sex abuse and harassment of former employees.
It quoted a former stewardess on his private plane who alleged that on one journey — during which Nygard was accompanied by a troupe of topless women — he lost his temper with staff, shouting: 'You are nothing! You are garbage! I am God!'
The programme also alleged that Nygard had engaged in 'inappropriate sexual contact' with a young woman who had been brought to his home in 2003 from the Dominican Republic. Nygard denied that either incident had happened, and sued to stop the documentary being broadcast.
Fast forward to May 2019, however, and those ugly incidents were largely forgotten. Kai, who was by then in his late 30s, had worked for his father's companies for just over two years after leaving college, but quit to pursue a career in activism and health science.
Nygard's trip to Los Angeles afforded them a rare opportunity to catch up, so he attended the aforementioned dinner party in Venice Beach.
As the night wore on, he recalls becoming uncomfortable about his father's behaviour towards an eight-year-old girl, who was attending with her mother, one of Nygard's old girlfriends.
'He's got her sitting right next to him at dinner, which is usually his girlfriend chair. And he's a creature of routine. So I'm already thinking this is weird.
'He's trying to act like the Papa. It was just weird . . . I'm noticing things. I'm noticing that he's telling her little secrets at dinner. Putting his hand close to her ear and going all hush-hush.' At the end of dinner, most of the other 20-odd guests got up to adjourn to the card table. However, Kai adds: 'I'm still watching him. Her chair gets pushed back. He brings her round to him.
'She was on his right side. He brings her to his left side, with his arm around her waist, and I see his elbow change and start moving as if — it looked to me, I couldn't see, but it looked like his hand was on her upper thigh, and rubbing. That's what it looked like to me . . . Everything in my body told me he was doing something terrible.'
Guests including Sarah Ferguson, Eugenie and Beatrice
'I had a huge adrenaline rush and I immediately told the mother to get her daughter away from him,' he adds. 'I stood up next to him and looked in his eyes. At that moment, for me, it was like all the walls were crashing down around him . . . And I realised that, yeah, he's probably trying to groom that girl.'
Nygard vigorously denied wrongdoing, and even called Kai 'sick' for thinking as much. But Kai was unconvinced.
Then, in February last year, ten women filed a bombshell lawsuit in New York claiming that the fashion magnate had used wealth and status to 'entice underage girls' from 'young, impressionable and often impoverished backgrounds' into his home, where they would be 'plied with alcohol' and (some allege) date-rape drugs, before being taken to Nygard's private
quarters, where he would 'assault, rape and sodomise' them. Court papers claimed they were then coerced into joining a globe-trotting harem of sex workers paid thousands of dollars from Nygard's company funds and trafficked around the world on his company's private jet, which reportedly boasts a stripper pole.
One alleged victim, who was just 14 at the time, claimed Nygard raped her and paid her $5,000 (£3,700).
Another said her encounter with Nygard began with him showing her pornography after which he raped her, 'causing her extraordinary trauma and pain', the suit states.
Three of his existing ten accusers were 14 at the time. Three more were 15.
Within days, dozens more alleged victims had come forward. By the summer, some 57 survivors were pursuing legal action — and the number of alleged victims had reached 100.
Kai again confronted his father, only to be told it was all 'lies' and asked to speak out publicly in his father's support.
But days later a friend texted Kai to complain about a recent visit to Nygard's house in Los Angeles.
'He said he'd brought a female friend with him, who had one or two drinks and had started to feel very high. Nygard took her up to his room and aggressively had sex with her, not using a condom.
'When I heard that, I knew he was not only as bad as people said he was, but was a dangerous criminal and had to be stopped.' He duly alerted the authorities about the friend's message. In a podcast called Live To Walk Again, released this week, he revealed that he began helping both the police and the alleged victims' lawyers, who he regards as 'heroes'.
Over the summer, Kai also used official positions held in Nygard firms to block two apparent efforts to move assets overseas, amid concerns that the tycoon might flee to evade justice.
'Through the course of ten months I also helped several survivors to file criminally against him, and spent countless hours on the phone with survivors, lawyers and authorities,' he says. Last month Nygard was arrested on U.S. charges at a home in the Royalwood area of Winnipeg.
He spent Christmas behind bars and has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying he 'expects to be vindicated' in court.
Kai has renounced his inheritance and is working on 'making the world a better place' by campaigning to close legal loopholes exploited by sex offenders.
'I'm very happy earning my own money, as I have all my life. We've never had a trust fund or an allowance, and since his money has been made through pain and suffering, I won't accept a potential inheritance,' he says.
His father's cash, he says, should instead go towards compensating victims. 'My focus now is to help the healing process.'