‘Indian doctor Asif Ali lied about employment history’

By Neena Bhandari, IANS

Sydney : Indian doctor Mohammed Asif Ali, who was Monday suspended with pay from the Gold Coast Hospital, is said to have lied about his employment history.

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According to The Courier Mail, it is alleged that Ali's resume included up to 12 months of hospital work in India that he never performed.

Ali was a former flatmate and colleague of Muhammad Haneef and was interrogated by the Australian Federal Police over his relationship with the now freed terror suspect, but was released after questioning earlier this month.

State of Queensland's Health Department had suspended 26-year-old Ali on full pay Friday, July 27, around the time the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions dropped charges against him of supporting a terrorist organisation by "recklessly" giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the UK bomb attacks.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, put in the spotlight for revoking Haneef's visa, is now seeking advice on Ali.

It has once again stirred the debate about 457 work visas and the vetting of skilled migrant applications, especially in the northern state of Queensland that relies heavily on foreign doctors to meet the skilled shortages.

In recent years, the influx of foreign skilled migrants has eased checks on applicants as the department's resources are overwhelmed with increasing numbers. Last year, the number of 457 visas approved jumped by more than 40 percent to just under 40,000.

There are around 5,000 overseas trained doctors working under supervision and under the 457 temporary visa scheme. In the past 12 months, 1,200 doctors have been given visas under the scheme and Queensland Health is understood to be its biggest user.

Two years ago, the case of Jayant Patel dubbed as Dr. Death in Queensland had raised concerns over the recruitment of overseas doctors.

Ali has received a show-cause notice from the Medical Board of Queensland and has 21 days to explain. His punishment could range from a warning to deregistration or prosecution, according to media reports.

However, it is reported Ali's medical qualifications are not in doubt and he is still described as being a competent doctor.

The Courier Mail reported that Ali graduated from India's Mysore University in 2001 and had directly applied to the Gold Coast Hospital after meeting a doctor from the hospital in Britain in 2006.

It is highly unlikely that Ali will lose his job. After checking Ali's certificates from previous employers, qualifications and work history in the UK, the Medical Board of Queensland has not found them to be in dispute.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson told ABC Radio, "There would appear to be an exhaustive check in this particular case. But nevertheless, as a result of, I guess, a much heightened level of investigation by the AFP, they've brought to our attention an anomaly which we have a responsibility to follow up."

The Queensland government has stressed the information did not relate to terrorism allegations.

Robertson told ABC Radio: "This is a case whereby some information that is passed on may not have been entirely correct, and we have a responsibility to investigate that."

While Haneef spent 25 days in custody, Ali was released following questioning in connection with the botched British bombings.

Police sources described him as a man who had simply made an "unfortunate acquaintance". AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty had said there was nothing to suggest Ali had committed a crime and he was free to return into the community.

But this was not before damage had been done to his reputation. His face had been splashed on the front pages of the tabloids, under headlines such as "the enemy within" and "terror link on our doorstep".

After being released following interrogation by the police earlier this month, Ali had told the Channel Seven TV Network, "I'm totally unaware of anything, Please leave me alone. I don't know anything."