Cookie dynasty heiress: I'm being kept out of NZ because of government grudge against my husband

By David Williams

American Harmon Wilfred is a long-term overstayer, who lives in Christchurch. Pictured with his wife Carolyn Dare Wilfred. Photo: Martin Hunter
American Harmon Wilfred is a long-term overstayer, who lives in Christchurch. Pictured with his wife Carolyn Dare Wilfred. Photo: Martin Hunter

The heiress of a Canadian cookie fortune says she is being kept out of New Zealand because of a government grudge against her stateless husband, who claims to be a CIA whistleblower.

Last Friday, Immigration New Zealand rejected an "investor plus'' residency application from Carolyn Dare Wilfred, who wants to invest millions of dollars in at least three Kiwi businesses.

Speaking from Canada, Mrs Dare Wilfred, 64, said the Government's hard line was "absolutely'' because of her husband, Harmon Wilfred, who renounced his United States citizenship in 2005 after what he says were threats to his personal safety and freedom.

"I just want to come home - or find a home, wherever that is, with my husband,'' she said yesterday. "I want this nightmare to stop.''

She said it was not surprising New Zealand would kowtow to the United States, adding: "It's disappointing that they don't have any balls, excuse me for saying that.''

The couple have lived in New Zealand since 2001 but Mrs Dare Wilfred left the country last September after her business visa expired.

Former United States citizen Harmon Wilfred, whose wife, Carolyn Dare Wilfred, has been declined an investor-plus category visa. Photo: David Williams / Otago Daily Times
Former United States citizen Harmon Wilfred, whose wife, Carolyn Dare Wilfred, has been declined an investor-plus category visa. Photo: David Williams / Otago Daily Times

New Zealand border officials promptly suspended her Canadian visa waiver and INZ's Washington office said it was likely to decline her application for a visitor's visa.

Mr Wilfred, 66, who lives in Lincoln, just south of Christchurch, has no passport and cannot leave the country. He said yesterday the couple felt under siege.

"We're physically separated because of this, without having any knowledge of when we can even be together again.''

Mrs Dare Wilfred is pursuing an oppression lawsuit against her brothers, Bryan and Graham Dare, in a bid to cash up her stake in the family business, Dare Foods, which is known in Canada for its cookie and biscuit brands.

The stake has been valued at more than C$50million (NZ$56.6million), although a complication of any payout, should she win, is an outstanding tax bill against her holding company of almost C$8million.

INZ's rejection last Friday said it was not satisfied Ms Dare Wilfred's stake was worth more than $10 million because a valuation had not been provided and it was concerned about the tax claim.

The Wilfreds, who intend to appeal the decision, said they provided several estimates of the shares' value but a full valuation would cost $70,000.

INZ has previously alleged Mrs Dare Wilfred had "previously been unlawfully'' in the country and it feared she "may not be a bona fide visitor''.

Mr Wilfred and Mrs Dare Wilfred are casting a net internationally to see if other countries will take the investment from her family fortune, even though they have "good opportunities'' to invest in New Zealand.

In 2001, the couple fled from Canada to New Zealand, via Hong Kong, because of continuing threats on Mr Wilfred's life.

He claims to have been a CIA financial contractor in 1997 and 1998, during the Clinton administration.

He later blew the whistle on the alleged embezzlement of billions of dollars, which he said was appropriated for CIA black operations.

He was temporarily jailed in Canada and the United States in the late 1990s over family court issues in Colorado. A federal judge dismissed the charges in May 2000.

He has not seen his two children from his second marriage since 1998.

The couple have invested more than $4million in various Christchurch businesses and charities since 2002.

But several failed after the Christchurch earthquakes, with debts of more than $1million - mostly loans or advances from the Wilfreds.

Also, three former employees won claims at the Employment Relations Authority.

In a statement yesterday, INZ area manager Michael Carley confirmed an application by Carolyn Dare Wilfred for residence under the investor plus category had been declined because she did not meet the requirements for residence under immigration instructions.

Mrs Dare Wilfred did not provide all the evidence required and, as a result, INZ was not satisfied that her nominated assets had a value of $10million or more as stipulated under the investor plus category, he said.

Earlier this month, Mr Carley said he would not comment on a case still being considered.

The Otago Daily Times asked Mr Carley for the average processing time of an investor plus category visa and how many other potential visitors to New Zealand from Canada had had their visa waiver suspended in the past 12 months.

He said: "We do not record this information in a reportable format and it would only be possible through a manual search of every single file.''

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said earlier this month: "Given Mr Wilfred is unlawfully in New Zealand, should her husband decide to`go elsewhere' as suggested, then he is more than welcome to do so.''

Last July, the Government announced a strategy to lure more overseas funds and entrepreneurs to New Zealand. The target was to double the amount of actual and committed capital migrant investors and entrepreneurs have brought to New Zealand to $7billion within three years.

- Otago Daily Times

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