A FAKE doctor exposed by the News & Star has been arrested for a suspected fraud.

Zholia Alemi, 56, worked as a psychiatrist within the NHS and in private practice for more than 22 years despite never qualifying.

Her case triggered national checks by health chiefs of more than 3,000 other doctors who came to the UK from Commonweath countries.

In a statement, Cumbria Police confirmed that a 56-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of various fraud offences.

The force has not named Alemi, but the News & Star understands that Alemi is the suspect and that she has been quizzed by detectives.

The Cumbria Police spokesman said: “Detectives investigating fraud offences have formally arrested a 56-year-old woman today (June 18).

“The woman, who was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation, obtaining a pecuniary advantage and possession of criminal property has been questioned by officers and will be subject of further inquiries.

“Officers have also conducted searches of addresses in Burnley, Huddersfield and Omagh in Northern Ireland as part of this investigation.

“The constabulary is continuing to work with a number of agencies, including the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and General Medical Council, as investigative inquiries continue.

“Further updates on this investigation will be issued in due course.”

In November, a News & Star investigation revealed how Alemi passed herself off as a doctor despite dropping out of medical school at the University of Auckland in the early 1990s. Her only qualification was a degree in human biology.

She fooled the medical authorities in the UK for 23 years, passing assessments that allowed her to become an NHS consultant.

Throughout her career she wielded enormous power over patients. Her consultant status meant she could work alone, and it allowed her to prescribe powerful medicines to her patients.

She also sat on a tribunal ruling on whether to release patients being detained for compulsory treatment.

Thanks to our investigation, officials at the General Medical Council - the body that regulates doctors in the UK - discovered that her primary medical qualifications were fake.

She came to the UK under a scheme that had relaxed the checking regime for medics from Commonwealth countries.

Doctors who qualify abroad now have to sit a series of tough exams, which test both medical competence, cultural perceptions, and English language skills.

As a Commonwealth origin doctor arriving in the UK in the early 1990s,, Alemi was excused this.

She provided the GMC with what she told officials were her “primary medical qualifications - a certificate which purported to show she had gained a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the University of Auckland.

She also handed over a letter confirming her graduation and a recommendation from her most recent employer in Packinstan.

None of those documents were genuine.

The GMC launched checks on more than 3,000 Commonwealth origin doctors who arrived in the UK under the same system as that used by Alemi.

Earlier this month, the organisation confirmed no other fake doctors had been found.

A spokeswoman said that the GMC, which spent almost £30,000 on those checks, is now considering whether it needs to extend the exercise to doctors from other countries.

Commenting at the time the story was first published, GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: “Our processes are far stronger now, with rigorous testing in place to ensure that those joining the [medical] register are fit to work in the UK. It is clear that in this case the steps taken in the early 1990s were inadequte and we apologise for any risk arising to patients as a result.”