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Psychiatrist Zholia Alemi accused of falsifying medical degree

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A “fake” psychiatrist spent two decades working for the UK’s National Health Service – earning more than $1 million – after falsifying her qualifications, she heard a court.

Zholia Alemi, described as the “most accomplished counterfeiter and fraudster”, allegedly tricked the General Medical Council (GMC) into granting her registration as a doctor and then worked for various health trusts across the UK.

Manchester Crown Court has heard how Iranian-born Alemi, believed to be in her 60s, claims to have gained her medical qualification at the University of Auckland in 1992.

However, it is alleged that she never passed the six-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) course and failed her exams before coming to the UK three years later.

Christopher Stables, a prosecutor, said: “In a nutshell, the prosecution’s case against this defendant is that, for a period of approximately 20 years, she maintained and practiced the profession of a doctor, a doctor, when, in fact, she never had passed or attained the relevant university qualification and was not an appropriately qualified medical practitioner”.

“It identifies the issue that is at the heart of this case, as you will hear.”

All the allegations against Alemi relate to the period from September 1995 to June 2017, after she arrived in the UK from New Zealand.

Zholia Alemi
Zholia Alemi is accused of practicing psychiatry under false credentials.

Stables said Alemi was a “fraud” who secured entry into the GMC doctors’ register by falsifying their qualifications and other documents.

He explained: “She is, according to the prosecution, a very talented counterfeiter and fraudster, but has no qualifications that would allow her to be called or in any way properly considered a doctor.”

Stables said that Alemi used deception and fraud to obtain employment and a “conservative estimate” of the money she fraudulently obtained was the US equivalent of between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.

He said that the defendant’s argument was that she was duly qualified and that the documents proving her qualifications were all genuine, and she was therefore entitled to the compensation she received.

Zholia Alemi
Zholia Alemi allegedly made over $1 million from fraudulent credentials.
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Her motive was “irrelevant”, he told the jury, but she “may simply have desperately wanted to be a doctor” and, having failed her exams, forged her qualifications so “that she could practice in a field that interested or excited her”.

She may simply “want medical status”, he said, but it was “unlikely” that the true position would be known, and “the fact remains” that the sums she obtained were the result of her dishonesty.

The court heard how Alemi was allowed to enter the GMC medical register via the Commonwealth Route – a legitimate route, closed in 2003 – which could only be achieved if the applicant held a certain grade known as an MBChB.

However, her application included spelling and grammar errors, with an alleged letter verifying her diploma from the university’s Faculty of Medicine coming from a college “register” rather than a registrar.

The court that the person claimed to have signed the letter had in fact stepped down from office at that time.

Stables said it was the prosecution’s case that the documents Alemi sent to the GMC were not genuine and were “forged” and not issued by the University of Auckland.

The court heard that Alemi first enrolled at the university in 1988 for a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, which she earned, after failing some of her exams in 1992.

Stables said that qualification did not make her a doctor, and Alemi never received an MBChB degree from the University of Auckland after failing her second-year exams and “not proceeding”.

He said: “She never trained as a doctor. And that’s why she faked her graduation certificate to send to the GMC with her registration application.” “All of this” was confirmed by university records, he added.

The court heard that police raided one of its properties in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 2019 and discovered a “forgery kit”.

Stables said an expert witness would give evidence that items found in the house in a briefcase, which included dry transfer letters purchased from British WH Smith store and blank documents, were used to make Alemi’s fake university certificate.

The court heard that Alemi became a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2003, passing the first part of her exams after four attempts and the second part after three attempts.

However, their membership was terminated just days after their forgeries surfaced, Stables said. The GMC withdrew her license to practice as a physician in November 2018.

Alemi, of Burnley, Lancashire, denies 13 counts of fraud, three counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deceit, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a false instrument.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.