Carolyn Dare-Wilfred, stuck in Canada without seeing her husband for 3 years.
The first article in an investigative series by Joseph Cederwall, Former Immigration Lawyer, and Co-editor of Scoop.
A senior Christchurch couple, Harmon and Carolyn Wilfred who arrived in New Zealand together in 2001, have been forcibly
separated for over three years due to the decisions and actions of Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) and the New Zealand
Judicial system. On 2 November 2018, INZ again declined Canadian-born Carolyn’s application for a temporary Business
Visa on what the couples’ lawyer believes are highly questionable legal grounds. This decision, which has no appeal
rights, has finally prompted the couple to go public.
Carolyn is the owner of a nationally distributing and exporting food and beverage company that employs a number of
specialised, skilled workers in Marlborough. She also has a personal net worth in the tens of millions, no criminal
record and strong community connections in New Zealand which makes this decision incomprehensible to the Wilfreds and
their legal counsel.
The Wilfreds have not seen each other in person since September 2015 when Carolyn was forced to leave New Zealand by the
sudden and unexplained refusal to grant her further business or visitor visas. This senior couple remain “absolutely in
love”, despite this now extended forced separation.
To be forcibly separated from the one you love so much for so long, when you have done nothing wrong, is so incredibly
cruel. A skype marriage isn’t great, but we are thankful for that. Our hearts ache for each other every moment of every
day. We try not to focus on it too much as tears flow. We miss each other terribly! It is difficult for us to understand
how the people in power who are doing this to us can sleep at night.
- Carolyn and Harmon Wilfred
Carolyn and Harmon, still very much in love despite physical separation
Carolyn says she literally “followed her husband to the ends of the earth to begin a new life down under.” After
committing more than $5 million in New Zealand businesses and charitable contributions through various New Zealand NGOs
and their own charitable trust, by 2004 the Wilfreds thought they were on their way to being accepted into New Zealand
society by the local community, members of parliament and business leaders. However, this dream was dashed, when INZ
effectively expelled and barred Carolyn from the country without any reasonable explanation.
Michael Carley, Manager - Visa Services at INZ
When asked for comment on Carolyn’s case, Michael Carley, Manager of Visa Services at INZ told Scoop,
Only New Zealand citizens have right to be in New Zealand. For all other nationalities, the ability to enter New Zealand
is a privilege and those who wish to come here need to meet the requirements set out in immigration instructions. INZ
were not satisfied that Ms Dare is a bona fide applicant who genuinely intends to only stay in New Zealand temporarily.
The Case For Carolyn’s Business Visa
Carolyn Dare Wilfred is a Canadian Citizen and an entrepreneur with significant business investments in New Zealand. She
is also heiress to a major Canadian family business in Canada with her shares worth an asserted value of in excess of
C$50 million. However, she was refused a temporary business visa by INZ on the grounds of a purported lack of ‘bona
This justification commonly used by INZ for decline decisions, is essentially a catchall for their prediction that an
applicant is ‘unlikely to depart New Zealand’. This prediction, however, does not have much substance behind it in
Carolyn’s case, according to her lawyer David Ballantyne. Her friends, family and life are all in Canada, where she also
has extensive business interests.
David Ballantyne, the Wilfreds' lawyer
The decision is inconsistent with Immigration New Zealand’s Operational Manual. Mrs Dare Wilfred has no family in New
Zealand other than her husband. Her only financial commitment to New Zealand is her recently acquired business, and that
is the reason she sought a temporary business visitor visa.
As Carolyn asks, what advantage would overstaying in New Zealand confer on her? If she were to do so, she would no doubt
eventually be deported and certainly never allowed to return to New Zealand, nor travel outside of Canada to any
developed nation. To claim that a sensible, mature business woman would make such an irrational and self-destructive
decision placing her business interests and family unity at risk is in her view plainly absurd.
INZ policy obliges the department to consider each case in a fair and naturally just manner. This fundamental Policy, Section A1 of the INZ Operational Manual
, requires decision makers to consider each case on its own merits, consistently with other like cases, and to only
consider relevant factors. This decision, however, appears to be inconsistent with other decisions made on business visa
applications of the same type. It could also be argued it is a breach of the requirements of fairness and natural
justice for INZ to prejudge an applicant’s intentions and claim they will breach Immigration Laws in the future based on
highly subjective factors.
Is Carolyn Being ‘Punished’ By INZ?
The complication in Carolyn’s case appears to arise from the fact that Harmon Wilfred is a former CIA asset and
whistleblower in exile. Harmon has sought Political Asylum in New Zealand after renouncing his U.S. Citizenship in
March, 2005. He has had a litany of visas, asylum applications, Removal Review Tribunal, Human Rights Tribunal
decisions, an Ombudsman complaint and a High Court judicial review, all declined without apparent reasonable
justification or explanation. Michael Carley, Manager Visa Services at INZ gave Scoop the following comment:
Harmon Wilfred has been unlawfully in New Zealand since 1 November 2004. A deportation order was served on him in
February 2011 following the conclusion of multiple immigration applications and appeals. The deportation order was then
cancelled in 2017 as INZ is currently unable to deport him.
However, David Ballantyne, who has also acted for Harmon since 2015, strongly believes justice has not been served in
The Citizenship Act 1977 gives the Minister the power to grant New Zealand citizenship to a person who would ‘otherwise
be stateless’. Mr Wilfred has been stateless since 2005 but this does not appear to have been recognised by this or the
The question being asked by the Wifreds as a result is, whether these decisions were ‘predetermined’ by INZ (ie a
foregone conclusion) or even worse, whether they involved political interference. If the latter, that is an extremely
serious matter that must be addressed.
Mrs Dare Wilfred meets the guidelines prescribed in INZ’s operations manual for entry into New Zealand under a business
visitor visa. The decision by Immigration New Zealand appears to have been predetermined in an attempt to punish her and
her business interest’s for her husband’s statelessness in New Zealand.
- David Ballantyne
Brenton Hunt, Carolyn’s Christchurch-based accountant, co-director of her company and the owner and director of Tax
Matters Ltd, also believes justice has not been served. He has lodged an Ombudsman complaint regarding Carolyn’s latest
visa decline which states, “As far as I, as a lay-person, can see, her lawyer’s legal challenges have never been
adequately addressed by the Immigration authorities.”
How Carolyn Ended Up in Canada
Harmon’s immigration status in New Zealand became increasingly complicated by his Political asylum claim and the
inability to access any redress through INZ, judicial or Ministerial appeals over a number of years. In 2015, Carolyn
was also unwillingly dragged into the saga.
At that time, her most recent three year Long-term Business Visa was coming to an end. However, she announced her
intention before the visa expired, to apply for a New Zealand Residency Visa under the Investor-Plus scheme (for high
net worth investors into NZ). Carolyn also applied at this time for a multiple entry visitor visa in order to remain
with her husband in New Zealand while this visa was processed.
However, this temporary visa was inexplicably declined. David Ballantyne then lodged a reconsideration request on her
behalf with INZ within the appeal window, which was also declined. Due to inflexible INZ policy this instantly made
Carolyn’s ‘interim visa’ no longer valid and rendered her technically ‘unlawful’ in New Zealand and ‘liable to
deportation’ under INZ policy.
Carolyn’s lawyer was in regular contact with INZ, including its compliance team following the decline of her application
for an interim visa, and subsequent requests for reconsideration under Section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009, and by
the Minister of Immigration. Carolyn compliantly agreed with INZ that she would visit her daughter in Canada for two
weeks, while making the application to return to New Zealand. In September 2015, she departed Christchurch for Canada
within a week of being advised of her visa decline. In a letter to immigration manager Gareth Rodda, David Ballantyne
Mrs Wilfred departed New Zealand well within her appeal period on a pre-scheduled date that was advised to Immigration
New Zealand and that she has complied with every direction given her by Immigration New Zealand while she was resident
in New Zealand between 2001 - 2015.
David Ballantyne was advised by an INZ Immigration Manager at this time that no action would be taken by INZ due to her
compliant behaviour. That is in fact the normal procedure in situations such as this in which the unlawful status arises
through no fault of the applicant, but a result of the peculiarities of the unwieldy INZ policy labyrinth.
However, upon her departure, INZ instead placed an “all-ports ban” on her re-entry to New Zealand and an alert on her
file removing her right to visa-free entry under the reciprocal waiver agreement for Canadians. Despite repeated legal
challenges by Ballantyne, this ban has remained in place to the present day.
In the normal course, people in similar cases, with no criminal record and good financial standing are readily able to
access a ‘character waiver’ from INZ allowing them to return to New Zealand. However, in this case Carolyn’s attempts
have been going unanswered.
The Wilfreds Character and Potential to Contribute to New Zealand
The Wilfreds both entered New Zealand legally and have contributed extensively to the community through business and
charity. At all times they have been nothing but model law-abiding residents of New Zealand. Most baffling is the fact
that the Wilfred’s have potential to contribute significantly to New Zealand’s economy. Carolyn is now the sole
shareholder in a Marlborough based nationally distributing and exporting food business that she recently resurrected
from liquidation, saving a number of local skilled jobs in the process.
Carolyn and Harmon also previously started a successful New Zealand international communications company Combined
Technology NZ Limited and have contributed greatly to the Christchurch community. They have both spent time on the
boards of directors (even as board Chair) of various New Zealand charitable trusts; and created and funded their own
charitable family trust (La Famia Foundation NZ).
The stated intent of the INZ Business Visa Policy
is to contribute to economic growth by “increasing New Zealand's level of human capital; encouraging enterprise and
innovation; and fostering external links.”
The policy is designed to attract exactly such ‘high value’ migrants as Carolyn to New Zealand and support development
of export-oriented businesses like hers that contribute to the New Zealand economy and create employment and external
links. However INZ have declined Carolyn’s business visa application despite her clearly fitting this profile. This
decision is now jeopardising the company’s first major export order to Canada as she cannot be in New Zealand to oversee
In making these decisions regarding the Wilfreds, the government has not met its obligations under international human
rights law. These include the rights of stateless persons, the right to asylum and safe haven and most crucially the
rights of the family to unity. Harmon Wilfred is distraught by this enforced extended separation from his beloved wife:
We have done everything we can from the time we arrived in Christchurch socially, economically, and politically to
contribute to NZ. But it all seems to make no difference, the political ties to the US seem to be far more important.
How many other people who have invested 5 million into the country have been denied the opportunity to live in NZ.
- Harmon Wilfred
The reasons for the declined visas and adamant refusal to cancel the entry ban on Carolyn given by INZ to date just
don’t appear to stack up according to David Ballantyne. Carolyn has even submitted a visitor visa based on humanitarian
grounds and she was still declined. This indicates to him, that there may be other factors at play here. It was not
until the most recent decision that INZ acknowledged that Harmon’s status as “unlawful” in New Zealand was part of their
decision making process regarding Carolyn.
The decision by INZ is completely at odds with the government's commitment to admit high quality migrants that
contribute financially and socially to New Zealand.
- David Ballantyne
Harmon Wilfred – The First U.S. Refugee?
Harmon Wilfred was an honourably discharged U.S. Military Veteran with a top secret security clearance. He turned CIA
whistleblower in 1999 over serious concerns he had about an assignment as a “CIA Asset” involved in covert financial
transactions in 1997 and 1998. Harmon appears to have created some extremely powerful political enemies when he
submitted a report on his concerns to Michael Horowitz, then Chief of Staff of the Criminal Division of the U.S.
Department of Justice.
Michael Horowitz, now Inspector General of the U.S Department of Justice
Horowitz declined to investigate, and consequently Harmon claims he was then forced to flee Canada due to threats to his
personal freedom and safety originating from high level officials. Before writing this off as a conspiracy, think of the
likes of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange. The US has a well-documented recent history of persecuting
its own citizens (or those of other countries) who speak out against the interests of the powerful U.S state and global
Harmon escaped to Canada from where he and Carolyn travelled to Hong Kong and finally arrived in New Zealand. Harmon has
repeatedly stated publicly that he has been under siege by the U.S. government, not unlike Edward Snowden. If so, he
certainly had good reasons for escaping this political persecution to start a new and safe life in New Zealand.
Harmon has no legal immigration status in New Zealand and is prohibited from working, however he is at least protected
from deportation to the U.S by New Zealand’s status as a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees. The important Article 33 prohibits ‘refoulement’, or the deporting of an asylum seeker to a jurisdiction in
which there is a reasonable threat to their life or freedom on account of their political beliefs or certain other
grounds. Harmon has also applied for asylum in various other countries including Switzerland. However, the Swiss Legal brief
in response to this claim effectively appears to state that New Zealand should address Wilfred’s claims and not push
him off onto another jurisdiction.
The Case for Humanitarian Intervention
The treatment of the Wilfreds for over a decade, with Harmon as a genuine political asylum seeker and both as
entrepreneurs in New Zealand, is also highly ironic given the current furore around the Minister’s granting of a
Residence Visa to Karel Sroubek in less than one hour. Mr Sroubek was granted this visa on humanitarian grounds by
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway despite previously being jailed for five years and nine months in 2016 for
importing MDMA, and entering New Zealand under a false passport. Lees-Galloway has understandably now come under extreme
heat for not deporting Sroubek and not checking the details of his case more carefully.
However, the question is being asked by the Wilfreds, as to how a man with such a chequered past could be granted
residency on humanitarian grounds with such apparent ease, while Harmon, with a real and well-documented risk of
persecution cannot access such asylum. Furthermore, the Wilfred’s still remain separated and cannot even access
temporary visas to have Carolyn visit New Zealand. As Carolyn and Harmon say, it seems inhumane and unjust that a
convict is allowed a second chance in New Zealand while a couple who could contribute greatly to New Zealand’s economy
and community are excluded. The couple also point out that even convicted prisoners are allowed to have visitors, while
they are not able to see each other at all.
It appears to the Wilfreds, that Carolyn’s declined visa applications over a course of years have all been unduly
weighted by irrelevant considerations regarding her husband’s political enemies and New Zealand’s political allegiances.
Under any other circumstances, the couple would have had this situation resolved years ago, however, arguably the
political context of Harmon’s background is causing problems for both him and Carolyn.
Is INZ Playing Politics?
The big question now being asked by Carolyn and Harmon, is whether the Wilfred's immigration dealings have been
influenced by political involvement of the Government in New Zealand’s supposedly independent immigration system?
Harmon was a CIA financial contractor from 1996 through 1998, under Bill Clinton's presidency. He has chronicled every
detail of his work for the CIA on what he only later realised were shady financial dealings in Central America. Harmon
has claimed that he became actively enmeshed in an operation in which billions of dollars were embezzled under the
pretense of ‘humanitarian aid’ to be appropriated for CIA black operations. This is obviously a highly damaging claim to
the interests of the U.S. and its allies. His website Luminadiem.com
outlines these extremely damaging details, supported by meticulously catalogued documentary evidence.
There is no doubt that due to Harmon’s background and the nature of these claims, this case is highly politically
sensitive. It touches on issues of the ‘National Security’ of the most powerful Nation in the world. It is also no
secret that the New Zealand Government is closely allied with the USA as part of the Five Eyes network. It would seem
that a decision to grant Harmon the ability to stay in New Zealand would in effect be an admission of the validity of
his claims of persecution, and would be considered a serious blow to the pride of the USA.
Official documents released to the Otago Daily Times in 2016 showed that the Government has been pushing the U.S. to help remove Mr Wilfred. An ODT article
by David Williams at the time, stated that these discussions were “to explore the possibility of an arrangement whereby
Mr Wilfred could be deported and allowed entry into the US”, according to a June 3 “aide memoire”, written by Michael
If anyone still thinks it is fantasy or conspiracy that INZ decisions are being affected by U.S. national security
considerations, perhaps it is time to reconsider the possibility. There are now numerous allegations from the migrant
and legal community of a systemic pattern of at worst, political interference, or at best, incompetence at INZ.
We need look no further than the Iranian Student case
surfaced by Stuff last week for another example of such damaging allegations. Iranian students quoted in the Stuff article said it had become harder for them to secure visas with INZ taking longer to process them and demanding more
paperwork. One student is quoted saying, "Absolutely, nobody wants to upset America on the world stage."
International security expert Paul Buchanan is quoted saying "there may be something" to claims from Iranian students
that they were being placed under greater scrutiny in recent months.
Lawyer Alastair McClymont, who was acting for an Iranian Water Studies student, said INZ's reasons for declining or
delaying his student, and later his skilled work visa application, seemed to change "every time you seem to ask them
what the reason is".
Those words could just as easily have come from the Wilfred’s lawyer David Ballantyne. He has heard “just about every
excuse in the book” for the refusal to grant visas to Carolyn and Harmon.
However, when asked for comment on the policy towards Iranian students, Manager of Visa Services at INZ, Michael Carley,
simply told Scoop, “There has been no change to the handling of visa applications by Iranian students as a result of a
directive from the Government in 2017 or 2018.”
Despite such blanket denials by INZ, outside of the possibility of political interference, there seems to be very little
explanation for the manner in which the Iranian students in question have been treated.
Nor has there been any other substantial explanation for the consistent refusal of INZ to grant Harmon and Carolyn
Wilfred visas. All the Wilfreds have received from INZ in response has been very vague, pro forma responses quoting INZ
policy and past decisions as justification. Michael Carley’s response when asked for comment on possible political
interference in INZ decisions was, “The decision to decline Ms Dare’s visitor visa was made by INZ.”
Why Political Interference in INZ Decisions Matters
If allegations of political interference in INZ decisions due to considerations of U.S. National security interests are
true and can be substantiated, this is a very serious matter. Immigration New Zealand is supposed to be independent and
to consider all cases consistently, on their merits and without political considerations having undue impact.
In the Wilfreds’ case, any such interference would in effect imply complicity by the Government in the ongoing
persecution of a human rights and truth defender and his innocent wife at the hands of powerful political elites.
Substantiation of such allegations would be highly embarrassing indeed for the current Labour Government with a strong
emphasis on the independence of its’ foreign policy and human rights.
The Minister of Immigration has a fairly wide discretion to intervene in cases where a strong humanitarian case for an
applicant to remain in New Zealand exists, or where the applicant would clearly benefit the New Zealand economy and
community. It appears entirely reasonable to expect such an intervention to reconsider the decision to block the
Wilfreds from New Zealand, as they are all out of other options.
The Wilfreds, through their Lawyer, call on the Minister of Immigration to intervene in order to ensure that they are
able to continue developing their lives and business endeavours in New Zealand. In Ballantyne’s view there are a number
of serious questions that remain unanswered. A continued failure to address these questions could indeed be seen by many
as a serious breach of the human rights to freedom of movement, access to justice and the right to family unity of the
Wilfreds. If ever there was a case for humanitarian intervention, it sounds like the Wilfreds are it.
As the UK parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, much more than 100 years ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of
evil was that good men should do nothing.” It would appear that there are no “good men” with conscious hearts in the New
Zealand Government. How sad indeed! We continue to hope that New Zealand is better than that.
- Carolyn Wilfred: