Alleged fraudulent Auckland University graduate practised psychiatry in UK for 19 years, court hears

Zholia Alemi is alledged to have illegally practised psychiatry across the UK for nineteen years.
Zholia Alemi is alledged to have illegally practised psychiatry across the UK for nineteen years. Photo credit: Cumbria Police

A woman described as a "most accomplished fraudster" practised psychiatry in the UK for almost two decades after allegedly falsely claiming to have graduated from Auckland University, a court has heard.

Zholia Alemi, who is believed to be 60 years old, is before the Manchester Crown Court accused of 20 offences, including forgery and fraud, all of which she is denying, the Guardian reported.

Over the course of her career as a psychiatrist, she was paid between £1 million and £1.3 million (NZ$2 million and NZ$2.4 million) from the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Opening the case, prosecutor Christopher Stables 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."

Alemi allegedly forged a degree certificate and letter of verification she said came from the University of Auckland, the Guardian's report said. She then submitted these documents to the General Medical Council (GMC) in 1995 with the goal of registering as a doctor in the UK. 

The prosecution claims that "rather than passing her [medical] exams, she in fact failed them and was never qualified at all".

"She had in fact secured entry on to the GMC register of medical practitioners but had done so by fraud; by forging her qualifications and other documents, which induced the GMC to accept her as genuine."

The court was told that Alemi practised in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland between 1998 and 2017.

She worked at a variety of health bodies and trusts over the 19 years.

The medical qualification and degree that all doctors in the UK must hold, before even studying psychiatry, are a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery, and this is almost always achieved after completing six years of study.

The Manchester court was told that in 1991, Alemi passed the first stage of her degree, achieving a Bachelor of Human Biology, but then failed the second year of her Bachelor of Surgery. She was not allowed to repeatedly attempt the Bachelor of Surgery. 

Stables said Alemi "at all times" was posing as a psychiatrist despite not having a medical degree.

"She decided to achieve by forgery what she had failed to achieve by academic study," Stables said.

"She didn't ever complete the course. She didn't pass, and cannot therefore have been awarded the degree that she claims to have."

The defence claims Alemi was appropriately qualified to practice psychiatry and that the documents from Auckland University are genuine. 

Alemi 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.

It is expected that the trial will last four to five weeks.