HIV data leak: Singaporean doc Ler Teck Siang to be jailed 2 years after losing appeal

Ler Teck Siang arriving at the High Court yesterday. The judge rejected his explanations, saying they were "creative but baseless and, in part, illogical".
Ler Teck Siang arriving at the High Court yesterday. The judge rejected his explanations, saying they were "creative but baseless and, in part, illogical".ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Judge says 37-year-old was instigator in ruse to help American partner get work pass here

The Singaporean doctor whose American partner is at the centre of the HIV Registry leak lost his appeal yesterday against his conviction and two-year jail sentence for helping his partner dupe the authorities into issuing him a pass to work in Singapore.

Arguing his own case, Ler Teck Siang, 37, sought to disavow two statements he gave to the police in which he confessed to submitting his own blood in place of that of HIV-positive Mikhy Farrera-Brochez to pass medical tests.

His explanations were rejected by Justice Chua Lee Ming, who described them as "creative but baseless and, in part, illogical". The judge did not think the sentence was "manifestly excessive", noting that Ler was the instigator of the plan and that many agencies were deceived.

Ler was ordered to start his sentence on March 21. Bail was set at $40,000, subject to electronic tagging. He was convicted and sentenced last September for abetment of cheating and giving a false statement to a public servant.

In March 2008, Farrera-Brochez took a HIV test at a Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Sata) clinic using a fake Bahamian passport. He tested positive. Ten days later, Ler submitted a sample of his own blood in place of his partner's so he could get an Employment Pass. Ler did this again in November 2013 after the Health Ministry (MOH) flagged the American's HIV status to the Manpower Ministry.

Ler initially lied to the police and MOH officers, but later confessed.

Yesterday, Ler said he fabricated the confessions. He claimed he lied in retaliation due to MOH's discrimination against him owing to his sexual orientation. Referring to himself in the third person, Ler said: "The retaliation was that he was expected to be cooperative, therefore he was not cooperative." He also said he lied as he thought he was expected to give a "bargaining chip" to investigators to stop Farrera-Brochez from disseminating MOH data.

Ler argued there was no cheating as the American was not HIV-positive at the time. He insisted Farrera-Brochez "most likely got someone else" to do the test at Sata "because of his fear of needles, and he had no regard for rules and regulations and laws". He added: "There is ample evidence to show he is a fraudster and has been defrauding not just local authorities, but the appellant himself since day one."

But Justice Chuafound Farrera-Brochez did get tested at Sata and that Ler's admissions were "clear beyond doubt". The judge agreed with the prosecution's arguments, made by Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck that Ler played the role of instigator, and was not just an accessory.

In January, Farrera-Brochez, 34, was named by MOH as the person responsible for leaking the details of 14,200 people with HIV, and another 2,400 of their contacts.

A US court last week ordered him to immediately hand over all copies he owned of any confidential data from the Singapore government. He was deported last April after serving his jail term for offences including cheating, lying to a public servant, possessing drugs and using forged educational certificates.

Ler is to go on trial in May for drug-related charges. He also faces a charge under the Official Secrets Act for failing to retain possession of the HIV Registry that he saved on a thumb drive when he was head of the National Public Health Unit.

Ler remains a doctor, although his practising certificate has expired. The Singapore Medical Council typically does not take action against a doctor until legal appeals conclude.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'S'porean doc to be jailed 2 years after losing appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe