Doctor in HIV data leak case also faces drug-related charges including trafficking

According to court documents, Ler Teck Siang had access to a registry which contained the names of individuals tested HIV-positive in Singapore prior to February 2012. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean doctor at the centre of the leak of HIV-positive individuals' confidential information is also facing three drug-related charges, including methamphetamine trafficking.

If convicted of trafficking, Ler Teck Siang, 37, can be jailed for up to 20 years with 15 strokes of the cane.

Ler is accused of administering methamphetamine, commonly known as ice, to one Sim Eng Chee in a room at the Swissotel The Stamford hotel on Feb 26 last year.

Court documents do not reveal details about Sim.

Ler is also accused of being in possession of a syringe - a utensil intended for the administration of a controlled drug - in the lobby of the Conrad Centennial Singapore hotel at around 4.15pm on March 2, last year.

Court documents do not disclose if he was arrested, but Ler is accused of failing to provide his urine sample at the Central Narcotics Bureau office in New Bridge Road about an hour later that same day.

Ler's trial for these drug-related charges will take place on May 29.

He is also facing charges under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) related to the leak of HIV information.

The date for the OSA case has not been fixed.

Court documents for the OSA case show that the doctor had access to a registry which contained the names of people who tested HIV-positive in Singapore prior to February 2012.

While working as the head of the National Public Health Unit in the Ministry of Health (MOH), he is said to have saved the information on a thumb drive.

He allegedly failed to "take reasonable care" of the information by "failing to retain possession" of the thumb drive between March 2012 and May 23, 2016.

In addition to court appearances for the OSA case and the drug-related charges, Ler has an appeal hearing coming up in March.

He is appealing against a 2018 conviction and a sentence of two years' jail for abetting his HIV-positive boyfriend Mikhy Farrera Brochez to commit cheating, and for giving false information to the police and MOH.

Ler, who does not have HIV, had submitted his own blood sample in place of his American boyfriend to help him get an employment pass here.

Following a trial, District Judge Luke Tan found Ler guilty of helping Brochez deceive the Ministry of Manpower into issuing him an employment pass in March 2008 and allowing him to keep the pass in November 2013 after red flags were raised.

In September last year, Ler was also found guilty of lying to the MOH in December 2013 and the police in January 2014, when he was questioned about a second blood test.

During his trial, Ler claimed he had given these statements under duress. His various allegations were rejected by Judge Tan.

Among other things, Ler said that while he was being questioned, an officer burst into the room, flung medical records on the table and shouted at him to "stop playing games".

This was refuted by the relevant officers.

The judge found it hard to believe Ler, who had flip-flopped in his testimony regarding the identity of the officer who was allegedly hostile towards him.

For the trial last year, Ler had engaged defence lawyer Amarjit Singh Sidhu, whom he later discharged.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Thursday (Jan 31), the lawyer from Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice said: "He discharged me on the first day of his trial to run his own case. I believe he is still not represented by a lawyer now."

Even though Ler remains a doctor for now, his certificate to practise medicine here expired at the end of last year and has not been renewed.

Brochez, 34, was sentenced to 28 months' jail in 2017 for offences including cheating, lying to a public servant, possessing drugs and using forged educational certificates.

He was deported after completing his sentence.

Ler and Brochez are now at the centre of a high-profile data breach in the healthcare sector that came to light on Monday.

MOH revealed that more than 14,200 people living with HIV had their confidential information, including contact details and medical information, leaked online by Brochez.

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