Trinidad and Tobago
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Judge reserves decision on Coco Reef resort lawsuit

Jada Loutoo Coco Reef Resort and Spa - THA
Coco Reef Resort and Spa - THA

A HIGH COURT judge has reserved his ruling in the multi-million-dollar wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuit brought by the former general manager of the Coco Reef Resort and Spa in Tobago.

On Tuesday, Justice Frank Seepersad reserved his judgment in Eric Feniet's lawsuit, against Bella Forma Resorts Ltd and its Bermuda-based owner John Jefferis, to April 24.

In his claim, Feniet said he worked at the resort for 25 years, moving up from food and beverage manager to general manager and director.

In May 2020, he said he was told his position was being made redundant because of the economic consequences of the covid19 pandemic, but three months later, a new resort director was appointed to fill his position.

In the lawsuit, Feniet, who received three months' remuneration, totalling US$45,919.23, in lieu of notice when he was terminated, is claiming he should receive compensation for six years calculated at US$832,500 and $1.4 million based on his dedication to his job and his role in making the resort a success.

Feniet is also seeking a US$1.5 million payment and parcel of land, which he claimed Jefferis promised him as part of his retirement package for his years of service.

On Tuesday, Feniet continued his testimony at the Waterfront Judicial Centre, Port of Spain. He was questioned by Jefferis' lawyer Martin George, who suggested the former general manager was terminated because of his poor performance.

"Instead of working harder you started to hardly work," George said. Feniet denied that was the case.

He also denied blackmailing his former employer.

At the start of the trial, on Monday, Feniet spoke of the tasks Jefferis made him perform, which he said included recruiting "young, slender and single" women to serve as Jefferis' personal assistants.

He also claimed to have hired escorts on the 76-year-old hotel magnate's behalf. He also claimed the assistants were expected to have a sexual relationship with the hotelier.

Feniet also claimed he was required to “perform certain rituals” for the resort’s owner and use his foreign bank account for “under-the-radar” transfers of US funds, since Jeffries could not deposit funds into his Cuban accounts because of US sanctions on that island.

He said he did not think the transfers were illegal and because of his relationship with Jefferis, he agreed to perform occult rituals “out of love” for his former boss.

Expected to testify on Tuesday was Jefferis’s wife Jennifer. However, George explained that while she arrived in Trinidad on a private jet last week for the trial, she had to return because Jefferis fell ill and had to be hospitalised.

Although Feniet’s attorneys made heavy weather of Jefferis’s inability to provide instructions, as his lawyer said he was “not of sound mind,” George repeatedly pointed out that his team received their instructions from Bella Forma Resorts and its directors, including Jefferis’s wife.

Feniet was represented by Terrence Bharath, Daniella Bharath and Marina Narinesingh. The company and Jefferis were also represented by Sarah Lawrence.