A man posing as an American-educated psychiatrist at one of New Zealand's biggest hospitals, earning a salary of more than $165,000, has lost an appeal against his fraud convictions.
Mohamed Shakeel Siddiqui was arrested in July 2015 with the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after he was caught using forged documents to work at Waikato Hospital.
He pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to four charges of deception and forgery and was later sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
A further nine charges were withdrawn at Siddiqui's sentencing.
But earlier this month, after having being deported to his native India last year, he challenged his convictions in the Court of Appeal.
Siddiqui had also sought an adjournment of his appeal after being detained in the United States, where his two children live, by Homeland Security.
Today, however, the Court of Appeal judges, Justices Patricia Courtney, Graham Lang and Christian Whata, declined Siddiqui's bid for an adjournment and also dismissed his appeal.
At the Court of Appeal hearing, Siddiqui's lawyer David Allan said his client's claim of right was that he was appropriately qualified for the Waikato District Health Board role.
Throughout the case, Siddiqui also fired several lawyers.
Previous trial counsel error and Siddiqui being overwhelmed by pressure from counsel, the court and judge also led to premature guilty pleas, Allan said.
Crown Law, however, argued Siddiqui's pleas were voluntary, he was properly informed by counsel, and hasn't identified any tenable defence to the charges.
Siddiqui also earlier sought to vacate his pleas but the application was rejected by Judge Glen Marshall, while the Court of Appeal heard the plea negotiation was Siddiqui's idea.
The appeal judges said in their decision it was well recognised that a challenge against conviction following a guilty plea would only succeed in "exceptional circumstances".
"It is not obvious how Mr Siddiqui intended to advance a claim of right defence. The essence of all the charges to which Mr Siddiqui pleaded is dishonesty," their judgment reads.
"The deliberate use of the forged documents leads inevitably to the conclusion that Mr Siddiqui acted dishonestly, precluding an honest belief in his right to use the documents. It may be that he intended to rely on an honest belief that his genuine qualifications entitled him to practise psychiatry. That would not be a tenable proposition either because it is completely at odds with the use of qualifications belonging to someone else."
The Court of Appeal judges said they were satisfied Siddiqui could not have provided the basis for a tenable defence of claim of right for the deception charges.
Siddiqui forged two documents to work at Waikato Hospital and gain a temporary registration and practising licence by the Medical Council of New Zealand.
One was an Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations certificate and the other an American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) certificate.
While Siddiqui does have a medical degree, which he gained in 2008, and a doctorate in engineering from the University of Arizona in 1992, the forged documents actually belonged to another man with a similar name, Dr Mohammed Shafiuddin Siddiqui.
Mohammed Siddiqui is an assistant professor in psychiatry at Southern Illinois University of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois.
Siddiqui the fraudster also altered a scanned copy of an Indian passport in the name of Mohamed Siddiqui so it appeared to be his own passport.
Court documents, earlier obtained by the Herald, show Siddiqui first attempted to work in New Zealand in 2012.
He was turned down, however, by International Medical Recruitment (IMR) because of his lack of qualifications. Two years later he tried again with the fake documentation and was successful.
Because of Siddiqui's fraud the Waikato DHB paid him a salary of at least $165,000 after he was hired on January 19, 2015.
During his five months in the job he also claimed expenses worth $4883.64, excluding relocation costs and flights, and was able to prescribe medication to mental health patients.
Court documents show Siddiqui used three bogus references with his CV, none of which worked at the hospitals named by Siddiqui, nor had he been employed by them either.
The Waikato DHB was given an oral reference by a Dr Mohan Nataraj, however, when double checked the phone number belonged to Siddiqui's brother.
Since the fraud, the ABPN has tightened its protocol about what information can be obtained from its website.
The court proceedings in New Zealand were also not without drama.
Despite earlier surrendering his passport to New Zealand authorities, Siddiqui was able to obtain a new passport and bought a one-way ticket to Houston.
He was then arrested at Auckland International Airport seemingly trying to flee the country and remanded in custody for the rest of the case.
On April 15 this year, the Court of Appeal received a letter - apparently from Siddiqui himself - explaining he had been detained in the United States by Homeland Security since February 10, 2019.
Siddiqui is also permanently banned from returning to New Zealand.