Zholia Alemi was described as an ‘accomplished forger and fraudster’ at her UK trial
By Ian Leonard
MANCHESTER, England — A “bogus” psychiatrist spent two decades working for the country’s National Health Service — earning more than $1 million — after forging her qualifications, a court heard.
Zholia Alemi, described as a “most accomplished forger and fraudster,” is alleged to have fooled the General Medical Council (GMC) into granting her registration as a doctor and then worked for various health trusts across the U.K.
Manchester Crown Court heard how Iranian-born Alemi, believed to be 60, claims to have obtained her doctor’s qualification from the University of Auckland in 1992.
However, it is alleged she never actually passed the six-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) course and failed her exams before coming to the U.K. three years later.
Christopher Stables, a prosecutor, said, “In a nutshell, the prosecution case against this defendant is that, for a period of approximately 20 years, she held herself out and practiced as a doctor, a doctor of medicine, when, in truth, she had never passed or achieved the relevant university qualification and was not a properly qualified doctor at all.
“That identifies the issue which is at the heart of this case as you will hear.”
All the charges against Alemi relate to the period September 1995 and June 2017, after she had arrived in the U.K. from New Zealand.
Stables said Alemi was a “fraud” who had secured entry onto the GMC register of medical practitioners by forging her qualifications and other documents.
He explained, “She is, say the prosecution, a most accomplished forger and fraudster, but has no qualification that would allow her to be called, or in any way to be properly regarded as, a doctor.”
Stables said Alemi used deception and fraud to obtain employment and a “conservative estimate” of the money she fraudulently obtained was the U.S. equivalent of between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.
He claimed that the defendant’s argument was that the pay she received was proper compensation for her qualifications and that the documents proving those qualifications were all genuine.
He told the jury that her motivation was “irrelevant,” but that she might have merely wanted to be a doctor and, after failing her exams, fabricated her credentials so “she could practice in a field that interested or stimulated her.”
He claimed that while it was “unlikely” that her true position would be discovered and that “the fact remains” that the money she received was the result of her dishonesty, she may have simply “wanted the status of doctor,” he said.
The court heard testimony about Alemi’s admission to the GMC’s medical register through the Commonwealth Route, a legal path that was closed off in 2003 and could only be taken by those who had earned an MBChB.
Her application, however, contained grammatical and spelling errors, and the alleged letter of verification for her medical degree from the university’s school was signed by a faculty “regitrar” rather than a registrar.
The court that the person alleged to have signed the letter had in fact left her post by that time.
Stables said it was the prosecution’s case that the documents Alemi sent to the GMC were not genuine and were “forgeries” and were not issued by the University of Auckland.
The court heard that Alemi had first enrolled at the university in 1988 for a Bachelor of Human Biology course which she gained, after failing some of her exams in 1992.
Stables said this qualification did not make her a doctor, and Alemi was never awarded a degree of MBChB by the University of Auckland after failing her year 2 exams and “proceeding no further.”
He said, “She never graduated as a doctor. And that is why she forged the degree certificate to send to the GMC with her application for registration.” “All of this” was confirmed by university records, he added.
The court heard police had raided one of her properties in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 2019 and discovered a “forger’s kit.”
Stables said an expert witness would give evidence that items found at the house in a briefcase, which included dry transfer letters purchased from the U.K. store W.H. Smith and blank degree documents, had been used to make Alemi’s fake university certificate.
The court heard that Alemi became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2003, passing part one of their exams after four attempts and part two after three attempts.
However, her membership was terminated within days of her forgeries coming to light, Stables said. The GMC withdrew her license to practice as a doctor in November 2018.
Alemi, of Burnley, Lancashire, denies 13 counts of fraud, three counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a false instrument.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.