The couple behind a hugely successful childcare business are suing the Australian Federal Police claiming its botched investigation that falsely accused them of being the masterminds behind a cheating syndicate led to them losing their company.
Ola Ouda, 44, and her partner Amgad Shehada, 49, were arrested after more than 150 AFP officers raided their childcare centres across Sydney and Melbourne in November 2020.
The couple were accused of signing up ‘phantom children’ to their centres and using the subsidies, including special pandemic funding, to spend on investments and luxury goods.
Two childcare operators who were accused of being the masterminds behind a syndicate cheating the childcare subsidy system are suing police (pictured, Ola Ouda)
Ola Ouda, 44, and her partner Amgad Shehada, 49 (pictured), were arrested following police raids at their centres across Sydney and Melbourne in November 2020
While police did not publicly name the couple, the AFP held a press conference shortly after the raid to announce it had dismantled an alleged major criminal network.
The couple were then named in the media before the AFP sensationally dropped all charges against the pair.
Despite the charges being dropped, the couple claim in a new defamation suit against the AFP, AFP Commander Todd Hunter and the Commonwealth of Australia, that the damage had already been done.
The couple claim the charges and the subsequent AFP press conference destroyed their reputation and their $10million childcare business, with the couple’s lawyer seeking a multi-million dollar compensation bill, The Age reported.
Ms Ouda and her partner are seeking millions of dollars in compensation. The couple claim they lost their business over the charges
The couple’s childcare business was generating annual profits of $2.5million with their lawyer Rose Rocca arguing they would be seeking compensation for the business and aggravated damages.
‘The special damages are significant and potentially, based on the expert evidence we have obtained, could be more than $9million,’ Ms Rocca told the publication.
‘Assuming we succeed, we anticipate an order for aggravated damages which will mean the general damages are uncapped and, again, in that circumstance, we would be expecting general damages in the many millions of dollars.’
AFP commander Todd Hunter held a press conference shortly after the raids accusing the owners of exploiting the system and cashing in on childcare subsidies and Covid-19 payments.
‘As a result, the AFP and its partners are investigating payments of more than $15 million,’ he said.
‘This is money that belongs in the hands of our community to help care for some of our most vulnerable persons.’
Ouda and Shehada filed a statement of claim in the Victorian Supreme Court where they slammed the press conference.
‘The press conference was undertaken for the sole or dominant purpose of seeking to promote the AFP and to improve the standing and reputation of certain … members of the AFP including Hunter,’ it read.
‘There was otherwise no legitimate forensic need or purpose to hold the press conference.’
The couple were accused of signing up ‘phantom children’ to their centres and using the childcare subsidies to spend on investments and luxury goods (pictured, police during a raid at one of their properties)
The couple argue in their statement of claim that childcare subsidies could still be claimed for children that were absent.
‘Whether or not children did… attend childcare services on the days in which surveillance was undertaken by the AFP made no difference to the funding provided,’ it reads.
The AFP will argue it was allowed to share the information under qualified privilege.
Ouda and Shehada were charged with conspiring with the intention to dishonestly cause a loss to the federal government.
An AFP spokesperson said two charges in relation to the investigation had been withdrawn by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions when it reached court.