US help to deport Wilfred sought

Michael Woodhouse.
Michael Woodhouse.
The Immigration Minister has repeatedly asked for United States help to deport a stateless businessman living near Christchurch.

Harmon Wilfred, who lives in Lincoln and claims to be a CIA whistleblower, fled to New Zealand in 2001 after what he calls threats to his personal safety and freedom.

He renounced his US citizenship in 2005 after the Government rejected his attempts to stay. In 2011, he was served with a deportation order.

Official documents released to the Otago Daily Times show the Government has been pushing the US to help remove Mr Wilfred.

A briefing paper written in June for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse reveals officials have held talks with US consulate and embassy officials about Mr Wilfred.

The discussions were ''to explore the possibility of an arrangement whereby Mr Wilfred could be deported and allowed entry into the US'', the June 3 ''aide memoire'', written by Immigration New Zealand manager Michael Carley, said.

The paper noted: ''These engagements did not produce any result of substance.''

Mr Woodhouse's private secretary, whose name was redacted, asked for the paper to be prepared before Mr Woodhouse's meeting with US ambassador Mark Gilbert on June 9.

The paper was to cover ''high level messaging relating to Mr Wilfred, as I'm sure it will be raised''.

Messrs Woodhouse and Gilbert discussed Mr Wilfred's case at a meeting in February 2015.

Six months later, the minister sent a letter asking Mr Gilbert for assistance ''to find a way to allow Mr Wilfred re-entry to the US''.

Mr Carley's June paper said: ''In response to your letter, Mr Gilbert advised that he had asked the US State Department again to look into the case.''

Mr Woodhouse's press secretary, Yvette McKinley, confirmed Mr Wilfred was not discussed at the June 9 meeting.

US embassy media specialist Janine Burns said in an emailed statement: ''As you will appreciate, we are very careful with information regarding individuals and their personal circumstances. Unfortunately these privacy considerations mean that we unable to respond to your queries relating to Mr Wilfred, his choices and current situation.''

Subsequently, Mr Wilfred waived his right to privacy but Ms Burns did not respond further.

The New Zealand Government has kept Mr Wilfred and his wife, Carolyn Dare Wilfred, apart for more than a year.

Mrs Dare Wilfred, the heiress of a Canadian food fortune, left the country in September last year when her business visa expired and border officials have suspended her country's visa waiver.

She is living in Canada, where she is pursuing an oppression lawsuit against her brothers in a bid to cash up her stake in the family business, Dare Foods.

In an emailed statement this week, Mr Woodhouse said: ''The barriers to Mr and Mrs Wilfred being reunited in another country are ones Mr Wilfred has imposed on himself. Mr Wilfred is able to remove those barriers at any time, but that's a matter for him.''

The minister ignored questions from the Otago Daily Times asking him to explain why it was so important for the Government to deport Mr Wilfred.

Mr Wilfred said the minister's comments were a deception, because he was stateless and could not leave.

''I don't belong to the US, so how could they take me back? I'm an alien.''

Mr Wilfred believed the high-level talks about his statehood explain why the Government had banished his wife from the country.

''The reason they want me out of here is two-fold.

''One is because I'm an embarrassment to them because they can't get me out - and they keep thinking that if they gave me any sort of status, that would set a precedent where a whole lot of Americans would come flying in and renounce their citizenship.

''And, of course, the other is because I'm at odds with the Clintons, and the Clintons are now coming up for election.''

Mr Wilfred claimed to be a CIA financial contractor in 1997 and 1998, under Bill Clinton's presidency.

He claimed billions of dollars were embezzled to be appropriated for CIA black operations.

The William J Clinton Foundation, which later became the Clinton Foundation, was established in 1997.

The Clinton Foundation has come under scrutiny during Mr Clinton's wife, Hillary's, bid for the presidency, including questions over the foundation's acceptance of foreign government donations.

Mrs Clinton's campaign officials have been asked for comment.

Following the ODT's first story on Mr Wilfred, in May, a member of Mr Woodhouse's staff, whose name is redacted, asked officials to check if his claims about being a CIA whistleblower had been raised in previous immigration requests, appeals or reviews.

david.williams@odt.co.nz

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