Tepper farm gets creditor protection extension

A court in Edmundston has extended creditor protection once again for the companies owned by jailed potato farmer Henk Tepper.

Companies owned by Henk Tepper plan to sell land

A court in Edmundston has extended creditor protection once again for the companies owned by jailed potato farmer Henk Tepper.

Tepper, 44, has been held in custody in Beirut, Lebanon, since last March on an international police warrant, accusing him of importing bad potatoes to Algeria.

His family owes more than $9 million to creditors and has been asking for more time to deal with them.

Bob Creamer, the lawyer for Tobique Farms, argued in Court of Queen's Bench Monday that the Tepper family's farm in the northwestern community of Drummond can continue to operate as usual.

In a written decision filed Tuesday, Justice Lucie A. LaVigne agreed to extend protection until Dec. 16 so the companies can file a plan of arrangement.

She found the companies  — Tepper Holdings Inc., Tobique Farms Ltd., Tobique Farms Operating Limited, Tobique International Inc., 637454 N.B. Ltd., New Denmark Farms Ltd., Tilley Farms Ltd., and Agri-Tepper & Sons Ltd. — continue to act in good faith and with due diligence.

This is the fifth extension granted by the courts. All of the parties present in court agreed to the extension.

May sell land

Tobique Farms — a 1,214-hectare potato farming operation that is one of the province’s largest potato producers — has been under protection since June and is still working out a plan to repay its creditors.

In a Nov. 24 report to the court, Paul Stehelin, the monitor of the companies, said they're in ongoing negotiations to sell certain parcels of property. The companies have received three purchase offers, but one was set to expire Nov. 28, he said.

"The companies expect that they may be able to get the closing date extended to the middle of January, 2012," Stehelin wrote. "The companies will require court authorization permitting them to sell one or more of these properties," he added.

Last weekend, about 200 demonstrators walked through the town of Grand Falls as part of a rally for Tepper.

His supporters say Ottawa hasn't done enough to help him and the latest rally called on the government to bring him home.