27 September 2010

Zepinic and the CV shuffle

The SMH reports that Vitomir Zepinic, arguably not the person you would want as your practitioner (and not merely because he is the subject of claims regarding war crimes), has been creative again with his certification. Ah, the joys of resume fraud!

The SMH indicates that -
An Australian man with criminal convictions for pretending to be a doctor has conned his way into a position at one of the most prestigious medical schools in Britain.

And despite being on a two-year-good behaviour bond, has continued the deception, telling an international war crimes tribunal he has a medical degree. For the past decade Sarajevo-born Zepinic has repeatedly lied to Australian authorities about his training and presented fabricated documents to medical boards. He has forged the signatures of other medical practitioners and created bogus references in his attempts to practise as a psychiatrist.
Earlier this year he featured in Zepinic v Psychologists Registration Board of NSW [2010] NSWPST 6 , an appeal to the Psychologists Tribunal over a decision by the Registration Board, ie the entity concerned with whether people can practice under the Psychologists Act 2001 (NSW).

The appeal followed Magistrate Burkell's decision in Burwood Local Court in July 2008 [PDF], with the court in Registrar, NSWMB v Vitomir Zepinic finding Zepinic guilty of six counts of falsely holding himself out to be a doctor (with inter alia the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) in breach of the Medical Practice Act 1992 (NSW). He was placed on a good behaviour bond, avoiding a prison term.

The SMH states that the Board thereafter -
undertook a long inquiry into Zepinic. Its discoveries were extraordinary.

Zepinic routinely lied, used forged documents, faked the signatures of other medical practitioners and made false declarations about his qualifications, investigators found.

The material was given to the Psychologists Tribunal of NSW. So appalled was the tribunal at Zepinic's "improper and unethical" conduct, last month it banned him from practising as a psychologist and said he posed "a significant risk to public safety".

"The level of dishonesty of [Zepinic] is remarkable", said the tribunal. Zepinic had demonstrated "he cannot be trusted to act in an honest and truthful manner" and was happy to lie "whenever it suited his purposes".

As well as lying about having a medical degree from Belgrade, the tribunal held that the document Zepinic used to claim he had graduated from the faculty of medicine of the University of Sarajevo was a forgery.
The SMH goes on to state that -
For years Zepinic has falsely claimed his medical degrees had been lost due to the war in his homeland. Using this excuse, he was able to work as a psychiatrist at Toowoomba Hospital for two years. In 2002 the Queensland Medical Board discovered he had no medical training.

He had earlier tried to secure a position as a psychiatrist with the Hunter Mental Health Services. However, the panel of doctors who interviewed him for the position said they were "seriously disturbed by Dr Zepinic's responses".

"He seemed not to understand the difference between benzodiazepines and antidepressants, [and] thought that Valium and Ducene were different substances".
He is in the news again over claims in the UK. He is reported as using "fraudulent documentation and references" in September last year, gaining a position as a senior lecturer in psychiatry within the Unit for Social & Community Psychiatry at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Part of Queen Mary, University of London, the medical school is internationally renowned for its research and teaching, which makes it even more extraordinary that Zepinic's bogus qualifications were not checked.

It was not until February, five months into his job, that Zepinic's conviction in Australia was brought to the attention of the medical school.

On March 1, Zepinic was confronted about having lied on his application for employment and he was suspended. Later that day he handed in his resignation, effective immediately.

"Since his departure the school has conducted a review of their recruitment procedures to ensure absolute scrutiny of qualifications occurs at interview stage by the chair of the interviewing panel."
It's reminiscent of questions about vetting at Murdoch highlighted recently in this blog.

The SMH is unimpressed with Zepinic, a former Deputy Interior Minister in the government of Bosnia-Herzogovina and allegedly subsequent security chief in Republika Srpska (a breakaway Serb republic created during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, headed by Radovan Karadzic and busy with crimes against humanity). It commented that -
Zepinic's lies did not stop there. In January this year he was called as a witness for the prosecution at the war crimes trial of his former colleagues Stojan Zupljanin and Mico Stanisic.

Zepinic, who trained as a psychologist at the University of Sarajevo, was the security chief for the breakaway Serbian state headed by the alleged war criminal Radovan Karadzic. In 1992 he resigned and fled to Australia the following year.

When he gave evidence earlier this year, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was not told that Zepinic had a criminal conviction in Australia for falsely claiming to be a doctor. Instead he told the tribunal sitting in The Hague: "I am doctor of medicine, PhD degree". He also said he had finished his master's degree in medicine in Belgrade, obtaining a PhD in 1985.

However, the dean of the school of medicine at the University of Belgrade has confirmed to Australian medical authorities that Zepinic had never been enrolled in medical studies at the university. "He is not a graduate of the school of medicine in Belgrade, and he did not complete a specialist degree in psychiatry at the school of medicine, University of Belgrade.