12 Jan 2023

NZ woman faked qualifications to work as doctor in UK, trial told

4:08 pm on 12 January 2023
Zholia Alemi.

Zholia Alemi worked as a psychiatrist after claiming to have qualified in New Zealand, the trial heard. Photo: Supplied / Cumbria Police

A "most accomplished fraudster" from New Zealand who forged a degree certificate to get work as a psychiatrist earned more than £1m from the NHS, a jury has been told.

Manchester Crown Court heard Zholia Alemi worked for almost 20 years after claiming to have qualified at the University of Auckland.

Prosecutor Christopher Stables said "to put it bluntly", she was "a fraud".

Alemi, of Plumbe St, Burnley, denies 13 counts of fraud, two of forgery and five other offences.

Stables told the court Alemi had forged a degree certificate and a letter of verification and sent them to the General Medical Council (GMC) in 1995 with the aim of becoming registered as a doctor in the UK.

The jury heard the defendant, who Stables said was believed to be 60, had gone on to work in psychiatry and had a number of jobs between 1998 and 2017 at organisations and health trusts which spanned "quite literally the length and breadth of the country".

He stressed that a "conservative estimate" of the total amount of money "fraudulently obtained by the defendant from the NHS is somewhere... between £1m and £1.3m".

He said Alemi was born in Tehran, Iran, but records showed she presented in New Zealand in 1986 and married a year later, giving her occupation as nurse.

'Completely deceived'

The court heard that by 1995, she was living at an address in Winchester, Hampshire, and had gone on to join the GMC medical register using the legitimate Commonwealth Route.

Stables said she was "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".

"In short, this defendant exploited [the Commonwealth route], she forged her qualifications, she made bogus assertions as to what her experience had been," he said.

"In this regard, she completely deceived the GMC into accepting that she was a fully qualified doctor [when] in fact, she never was."

'Forger's kit'

He said the court would be shown evidence that Alemi failed her medical exams and, after repeated resits, was asked to withdraw from the medical faculty.

"Rather than passing her exams, she in fact failed them, was asked to leave and was never qualified at all," Stables said.

He added that a letter of verification sent to the GMC, which was claimed to be from the "faculty registrar", had said she had completed six years of training with "satisfactory grade".

Stables said police searched a home owned by Alemi in Omagh, Northern Ireland, and discovered a briefcase in a cupboard containing part of a "forger's kit", including dry transfer letters and documents which he suggested were practice versions of a forged certificate.

The jury heard her case was that she was appropriately qualified and documents demonstrating her qualifications were genuine.

Stables said: "That does not accord with the evidence you will hear."

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

Her trial is expected to last up to five weeks.