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Montreal investor to buy Agriprocessors: report

A beleaguered and bankrupt U.S. kosher meat packer may soon continue operating in the hands of a Montreal investor and his partners.

The Des Moines Register reported in an article Wednesday that Iowa-based Agriprocessors, which lost a substantial portion of its workforce in a nationally notorious raid by U.S. immigration officials last spring, may go to SHF Industries, an Iowa firm led by Montreal businessman Hershey Friedman.

Register reporters Grant Schulte and Tony Leys quoted Joseph Sarachek, the plant’s court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, as saying he had filed papers Tuesday to get approval for the sale from a U.S. bankruptcy judge.

The reporters said Sarachek’s court papers state the buyers have no connection to the company’s most recent owners, the Rubashkin family, who set it up in 1987 at the former HyGrade meat processing plant at Postville, Iowa, about 120 km northwest of Dubuque.

According to the Register, Friedman’s SHF has agreed to pay “at least” US$8.5 million to the plant’s two largest creditors, and to accept the Postville plant on an “as is, where is” basis.

The plant was the biggest kosher meat supplier in the U.S. before the raid in May last year, supplying retailers including Wal-Mart and Kroger. Sarachek told the newspaper he believes the new owners plan to reopen the plant’s beef line and would still process chickens.

The newspaper said the deal must also obtain the blessing of U.S. federal prosecutors who’d like to make sure that Sholom Rubashkin, one of Agriprocessors’ key executives, will not still be involved in the operation.

Rubashkin is one of a number of Agriprocessors staff now facing a 142-count federal indictment alleging bank fraud and harbouring undocumented workers for profit, among other charges. Rubashkin has pleaded not guilty, Schulte wrote in a separate article last week.

Sholom Rubashkin is one of the two sons of Agriprocessors founder Aaron Rubashkin, who along with his sons and daughter had moved to Postville as the plant’s senior management.

SHF Industries, the Register wrote, is owned by Friedman and two other partners. Friedman is known in Montreal as the president of Polystar Packaging, which provides packaging for the food processing, household products, industrial and medical device industries.

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