Ex-taxi driver made £1.5m as fake doctor

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The Independent Online

Patients arriving at the Kimia Clinic in an imposing Westminster townhouse must have been impressed by the credentials of its owner. His notepaper was headed, "Professor Barian Samuel Baluchi MB ChB MSc PhD Consultant Psychiatrist and Neuro-Psychiatrist".

For nearly five years, the Iranian-born practitioner operated a lucrative private practice offering services ranging from advising the Government on its refugee policies to giving court testimony as an expert witness.

He had a five-bedroom house in west London costing £670,000, a Mercedes with the registration D8CTR and private schooling for his daughter. But the 43-year-old who counselled traumatised refugees and performed minor surgery, had no medical qualifications, a court heard yesterday. His PhD, which helped him obtain an estimated £1.5m in grants and payments, came from a "distance-learning" course in America whose academic requirements included playing golf and reading a newspaper.

Baluchi admitted 30 charges, including obtaining a false medical registration, perjury and possession of a class A drug.

In reality, the twice-married father of two children was a former taxi driver and dry-cleaner who amassed 20 false identities and faked his graduation photograph from Imperial College, London, Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court was told. Baluchi had conned dozens of individuals, including charity officials, who gave him grants worth more than £100,000, and solicitors acting for asylum-seekers who had paid £375,000 for hundreds of expert reports.

Louise Kamill, for the prosecution, said: "He took in people from the newly arrived asylum-seeker to senior officials at the Department of Health, from people practised in detecting dishonesty such as the judges sitting at the Old Bailey to his own personal acquaintances. Each believed him to be a qualified doctor and trusted him. He was completely unqualified, his identity is liquid."

The con artist provided testimony in high-profile court cases, including that of a Kurdish refugee convicted of raping and sexually assaulting 10 women by posing as a gynaecologist. Acting as an expert for the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, Baluchi is also feared to have given incorrect diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the 1,500 asylum-seekers on whom he reported, 1,000 are thought to have been successful. The Home Office has refused to comment.

Baluchi also obtained £35,000 from the Department of Health for a refugee mental health service and £96,000 from the Home Office for counselling refugees and their families. Such was his mastery of deception that his first wife unwittingly helped him prepare his grant applications and never knew he had remarried or had children.

The court heard his PhD in counselling from the now-closed Columbia State University had been obtained by accumulating "life-style credits" for activities including watching television and keeping tropical fish.

He used the stolen identity of a Spanish psychiatrist to obtain registration from the General Medical Council. He also performed several procedures, including a botched attempt to twist a patient's spine and removing a wart from a penis. Baluchi was remanded in custody to await sentence.