guardian.co.tt- Businessman and veteran soca artiste Neil “Iwer” George has been ordered to pay over $100,000 in compensation to a former employee and business associate for work and services provided to his party boat enterprise.
Delivering an oral judg=ment at the end of a one-day trial at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain this afternoon, High Court Judge James Aboud upheld the claim brought by Calvin LaVende, of L’Anse Mitan Road, Carenage.
Testifying before Aboud, LaVende claimed that in September 2011, he was employed by George to conduct clean up operations on the MV Coral Vision while the decommissioned Coast Guard vessel was being converted to undertake civilian pleasure cruises.
LaVende claimed that George approached him to purchase an outboard engine for the vessel’s lifeboat as it was due to be inspected.
He claimed that he arranged for George to purchase the lifeboat from a neighbour and agreed to sell him an engine for $7,000. He claimed that George paid a $2,000 downpayment but never cleared the remaining debt.
LaVende also alleged that George requested that he clean the ship’s four water tanks.
He admitted that he and George did not agree to a price for the job as he claimed that George was in a rush to have the job completed.
“I was working 24 hours because he was hustling me,” LaVende said.
He claimed that the job cost more than initially anticipated and he quoted a rate of $18,000 per tank. LaVende admitted that he did not have comparative estimates for the work as he was “small contractor”.
“I had to put back water into it so that the inspectors would not know it had fuel in it. He never paid me my money and have me suffering all now,” LaVende said, as he claimed that he was suspicious that George may be involved in fuel bunkering.
Throughout his testimony, LaVende admitted to having problems recounting details as the business arrangement as he claimed that he was beaten by a group of soldiers during the 2011 State of Emergency. In May, LaVende received $160,000 from the State over the incident.
“My brain does be malfunctioning…The memories does come and go,” LaVende said.
LaVende also claimed that he rented a pirogue to George to transport his workers for six months and that the vessel required over $23,000 in repairs when it was eventually returned.
In his evidence, George denied most of LaVende’s claims. George claimed that he initially agreed to purchase the engine but reversed the sale after his captain tested it and it failed to start. He claimed that he asked LaVende to collect the engine the following day, but he only did so several months later.
George also denied that LaVende serviced four tanks, instead claiming that it was one that required cleaning and the agreed price was $5,000.
Quizzed by LaVende’s lawyer Matthew Gayle over his claim in his defence to the case that LaVende did not perform any work, George admitted it was an error.
George also denied renting the pirogue and claimed that it sustained the damage as LaVende would frequently abandon it on the jetty in Sea Lots near to his ship. George claimed that unknown persons, who commandeered the vessel, caused the damage.
There were several inconsistencies between George’s evidence and that of his captain Jimmy Ferguson.
While George claimed that he sold the boat to a company from Guyana, several years ago, Ferguson claimed that George is still the owner and he is still employed by him.
George also contended that his vessel never went past Port-of-Spain on his cruises, however, Ferguson claimed that it made regular journeys to Chaguaramas.
As he was being quizzed by Aboud over the test he performed on the engine, Ferguson admitted that it was not connected to a fuel source and was lying on its side.
In delivering judgment, Aboud ordered George to pay the balance on the engine as well as the six-month rental of the pirogue at a rate of $300 per day.
He also ordered George to pay for the repairs to the pirogue and $20,000 for cleaning the four tanks based on the rate that George previously accepted.
George was also ordered to cover LaVende’s legal costs for bringing the lawsuit.
George was represented by Peter Taylor while Kerrina Samdeo appeared alongside Gayle for LaVende.