‘Most accomplished fraudster’ paid more than £1m by NHS after forging qualifications, court told
A “most accomplished fraudster” was paid more than £1 million by the NHS after forging a degree certificate and pretending to be a qualified doctor, a court has heard.
Zholia Alemi (pictured) worked as a psychiatrist after claiming to have qualified at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, a trial at Manchester Crown Court was told on Tuesday.
She denies 20 offences, including forgery and fraud.
Opening the case, Christopher Stables, prosecuting, said: “To put it bluntly, the defendant is a fraud.
“While she held herself out as being a doctor, she was utterly unqualified to do so.”
He said she forged a degree certificate and a letter of verification which she sent to the General Medical Council (GMC) in 1995 with the aim of becoming registered as a doctor in the UK.
Mr Stables told the jury: “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.”
The court heard that the defendant, who Mr Stables said was believed to be 60, worked in psychiatry and had a number of jobs at health bodies and trusts between 1998 and 2017.
Mr Stables said: “The events in this case span just a little over 20 years and many different jobs, quite literally the length and breadth of the country, were held by this defendant during this time.
“A conservative estimate, and I stress a conservative estimate, as to the quantum – so the overall – amount of money fraudulently obtained by the defendant from the NHS is somewhere, the prosecution say, between £1 million and £1.3 million.”
He said Alemi was born in Tehran, Iran, but records showed she presented in New Zealand in 1986 and a year later married, giving her occupation as nurse.
By 1995, the court heard, she was living in the UK at an address in Winchester, Hampshire.
She joined the GMC medical register using the legitimate Commonwealth Route, the jury was told.
Mr Stables said: “In short, this defendant exploited this, she forged her qualifications, she made bogus assertions as to what her experience had been.
“In this regard she completely deceived the GMC into accepting that she was a fully qualified doctor.
“In fact, she never was.
“The evidence will show that in fact the defendant failed her medical exams and after a number of repeated attempts at resitting them 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.”
He said a letter of verification sent to the GMC claimed to be from the “faculty registrar” and said she had completed six years of training with “satisfactory grade”.
Mr Stables said police searched a home owned by Alemi in Omagh, Northern Ireland, and discovered a briefcase in an understairs 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 Alemi’s case was that she was appropriately qualified and documents demonstrating her qualifications were genuine.
Mr Stables said: “That does not accord with the evidence you will hear.”
Alemi, of Plumbe Street, Burnley, 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 four to five weeks.
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