Trial begins for former doctor in HIV data-leak case

Ler Teck Siang is charged with failing to provide a urine specimen to narcotics officers in relation to drug offences.
Ler Teck Siang is charged with failing to provide a urine specimen to narcotics officers in relation to drug offences.

A former doctor involved in the HIV Registry data leak saga is claiming trial to a charge of failing to provide a urine specimen to narcotics officers in relation to drug offences.

Appearing in court in shackles yesterday, the slightly built Ler Teck Siang, 39, represented himself and argued that he had a valid excuse not to provide his urine to Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers since he was not given a "legal order" to do so.

On the first day of the trial, the prosecution witness, Senior Staff Sergeant Palan Hemmamalani from CNB, testified that Ler "outrightly refused" to provide a urine sample when asked repeatedly. He also rejected an offer to have water.

"His response towards me was very hostile... He wasn't cooperative, he wasn't listening to what I was saying, he just refused," she said. "He said that he does not wish to give his urine sample, citing human rights and civil rights."

Ler, in cross-examining Senior Staff Sgt Hemmamalani, said he mentioned that while he was able to provide a urine sample, he "would rather not (give the sample) if (he) did not have to". The officer did not recall having this conversation.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is an offence to fail to provide a CNB officer who reasonably suspects any person to have committed a drug-related offence with a sample of their urine without a reasonable excuse.

Last October, Ler was sentenced to 15 months' jail for injecting drug abusers for a fee, and possessing drug utensils after he was arrested with drug abuser Sim Eng Chee at Conrad Centennial Hotel on March 2, 2018. Hotel staff called the authorities after they found drugs in Sim's hotel room.

Deputy public prosecutors Dwayne Lum and Lu Yiwei brought out eight CNB officers yesterday who were involved in the case.

Several officers testified that Ler initially refused to be searched at the hotel, saying that he had "human" and "civil rights".

However, after drugs were found in Sim's bag, Ler was handcuffed and searched. Straws and a syringe were found on him.

A reinforcement team was called to pick Ler up from the hotel and process him at the CNB office in New Bridge Road where he is accused of not providing a specimen of his urine to CNB officers.

The three-day trial continues today with Ler taking the stand.

 
 

Ler is serving a two-year sentence for helping his HIV-positive former partner, American Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, cheat the authorities into issuing him a work pass in 2008.

In the HIV registry scandal last year, the details of 14,200 HIV-positive patients were leaked online.

Ler, who was formerly head of the National Public Health Unit, also faces a charge under the Official Secrets Act.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2020, with the headline 'Trial begins for former doctor in HIV data-leak case'. Print Edition | Subscribe