Cape Town – The State has indicated its intention to oppose bail against accused fraudster and director of Al Noor Orphanage Amani Okpara as she was deemed a flight risk.
The 49-year-old remained in custody at the Pollsmoor Hospital section until her bail application next month.
On Tuesday, Okpara, seemingly in immense pain and discomfort, struggled up the stairs to the dock in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.
Okpara, from Cameroon, was arrested at the Woodstock facility on June 14 during a sting operation by the Hawks’ serious corruption investigation team together with the Department of Social Development, on charges of fraud and corruption.
Hawks spokesperson Philane Nkwalase said Okpara was arrested for fraud and corruption regarding donor funds that were redirected to a personal account and used for personal gain. These funds were meant for the operation of the centre.
Defence attorney Andre Johnston said he had a different view of how the court proceedings were to flow yesterday and wanted Okpara’s bail application to be heard as soon as possible, adding that his client being a flight risk was “utter nonsense”.
Johnston conceded Okpara had a previous fraud conviction at Bellville Magistrate’s Court in 2017 where she received a “non-custodial sentence”.
Johnston argued that Okpara, who suffered a stroke previously and is also a chronic patient, was a registered South African citizen.
She arrived in the country in 1993 and also owns a bonded property in Cape Town and various other assets.
Johnston said he had taken exception to the characterisation of his client as she has been in the country for a number of years.
State prosecutor Adiel Jansen hit back saying Okpara’s “entire citizenship was based on fraud” and alluded to the “corrupt nature of the accused and an official”.
“We have recently received information that the accused intends to flee the country. At the bail application we will delve deeper into these allegations,” Jansen said.
“Her very existence in South Africa is based on fraud and corrupt dealings with Home Affairs and police officials. There are a myriad of issues (for reasons) why the State opposes bail,” Jansen said.
The matter was postponed to July 1.
Okpara’s arrest and subsequent court appearance came days after the department removed 17 children from the centre in Woodstock after allegations of physical and sexual abuse.
There are no children currently housed at the facility, according to the orphanage’s manager Nkululeko Mboniswa.
A group of children held a demonstration outside court on Tuesday in support of Okpara, calling for her release on bail.