The trial started today for an alleged "bogus" psychiatrist spent two decades working for the NHS - earning more than £1m - after forging her qualifications, the jury heard at Manchester Crown Court.
Zholia Alemi, described as a "most accomplished forger and fraudster", is alleged to have fooled the GMC into granting her registration as a doctor and then worked for various trusts across the UK.
Alemi was 'Not a Properly Qualified Doctor at All': Prosecutor
Manchester Crown Court heard how Iranian-born Ms Alemi, believed to be 60, claims to have obtained her doctor's qualification from the University of Auckland in 1992. But it is alleged she never actually passed the 6-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree - needed to be a doctor - and failed her exams before coming to the UK 3 years later.
Christopher Stables, prosecuting, 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 Ms Alemi relate to the period September 1995 and June 2017 after she had arrived in the UK from New Zealand.
Used Forged Documents to Enter GMC Register
Mr Stables said Ms Alemi was a "fraud" who had secured entry onto the GMC register of medical practitioners by forging her qualifications and other documents.
He said: "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."
Mr Stables said she used deception and fraud to obtain employment and a "conservative estimate" of the money she fraudulently obtained was "somewhere between £1m and £1.3 m".
He said the defendant's case was that she was appropriately qualified and that documents demonstrating her qualifications were all genuine and she was, therefore, entitled to the renumeration she received.
Her motive was "irrelevant", he told the jury, but she "may simply have wanted desperately to be a doctor" and, having failed her exams, forged her qualifications so "she could practice in a field that interested or stimulated her".
She may simply have "wanted the status of doctor", he said, but it was "unlikely" the true position would be known and "the fact remains" that the sums she obtained were the consequence of her dishonesty.
The court heard how Ms Alemi was allowed to join the GMC's medical register by the 'Commonwealth Route' - a legitimate route, closed off in 2003 - which could only be achieved if an applicant held a MBChB.
MBChB Never Completed
Ms Alemi's application had included spelling and grammatical errors, with an alleged letter of verification for her degree from the university's School of Medicine coming from a faculty "regitrar" instead of registrar. The court heard that the person alleged to have signed the letter had in fact left her post by that time.
Mr Stables said it was the prosecution's case that the documents Ms Alemi sent to the GMC were not genuine and were "forgeries" and were not issued by the University of Auckland.
The court heard that Ms Alemi had first enrolled at the university in 1988 for a Bachelor of Human Biology degree, which she gained in 1992, despite failing some of her exams. Mr Stables said this qualification did not make her a doctor and Ms 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." He added that "all of this" was confirmed by university records.
'Forger Kit' Found in Police Raid
The court heard police had raided one of her properties in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 2019 and discovered a "forger’s kit".
Mr Stables said an expert witness would give evidence that items found at the house in a briefcase, which included dry transfer letters purchased from WH Smith and blank degree documents, had been used to make Ms Alemi's fake university certificate.
The court heard that Ms 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. But her membership was terminated within days of her forgeries coming to light, Mr Stables said.
The GMC her withdrew her licence to practice as a doctor in November 2018.
Ms Alemi, of Burnley, Lancashire, denies 20 charges of deception, relating to forgery and fraud. The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues.