Zholia Alemi pretended to have a degree from Auckland University and posed as a doctor in the UK for 19 years, a court has heard.
A Kiwi woman who allegedly posed as a doctor in the United Kingdom for nearly two decades has denied forging a degree certificate in order to practise.
Zholia Alemi is facing a jury trial at the Manchester Crown Court on 20 charges, including forgery and fraud.
Alemi worked for the National Health Service (NHS) as a psychiatrist for 19 years and was paid about $2 million. She has previously been described as the “most accomplished fraudster” by the prosecutor, the Guardian reported.
According to the BBC, Alemi told the jury this week that she was born in Iran in 1967, depite the court having two different dates of birth for her on different documents.
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She told the jury she left Iran and divorced her husband after she and her family were tortured following the Iranian revolution.
Alemi said she graduated from the University of Tehran with a BSc in biology.
She then attended the University of Auckland and completed a bachelor of medicine and a bachelor of surgery degree course.
She denied failing her exams during the six-year-course, the BBC reported.
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A University of Auckland spokesperson previously confirmed to Stuff Alemi had been awarded a bachelor of human biology in May 1992.
She started a medical degree but did not continue, the spokesperson said.
Alemi told the court she moved to the UK in 1995 and sent a degree certificate and letter of verification, apparently from the University of Auckland, to the General Medical Council.
Alemi denied forging the degree certificate.
Asked about mistakes in the letter, which spelled “verify” as “varify” and referred to “six years medical trainee with satisfactory grade”, Alemi said it was “unusual”.
“I don’t think that this letter could have been produced by somebody who has got even just a bachelor degree in any subject from Auckland University,” she said.
“Auckland University is English-speaking, you cannot pass your exams not knowing English and this letter, to me, it’s very unusual.”
The court heard once Alemi was in the UK, she went on to do training in Northern Ireland and was awarded a diploma in mental health by Queens University, Belfast, in July 1998.
Alemi then qualified for membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Defence lawyer Francis FitzGibbon KC asked Alemi if it was possible for her to achieve the qualifications without a medical degree.
“No, it’s impossible,” she replied.
Alemi was previously jailed for fraud and theft in 2018 after she was found to have doctored an elderly dementia patient’s will in west Cumbria in an attempt to inherit the pensioner’s £1.3 million (NZ$2.4 million) estate.
The trial continues.