SINGAPORE - Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the American who allegedly leaked information from Singapore's HIV Registry, was not charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) back in 2016, as he was already facing other charges that carried heavier penalties.
This was revealed by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 12).
Brochez and his partner Ler Teck Siang were both charged in court in June 2016.
The American was charged with offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Penal Code and Infectious Diseases Act. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) decides on the charges, said Mr Gan.
"AGC decided not to charge him under the OSA because they assessed that he would likely be sentenced to a fine only, or at most a few weeks in jail."
This was because there had been no wide dissemination of the information at that stage, and Brochez had primarily used the information to complain to government agencies.
"He was already facing numerous fraud and drug-related charges, which carried far heavier penalties. AGC also assessed that any jail term under the OSA was likely to be concurrent with jail terms that he would serve under the other offences," said Mr Gan.
As such, Brochez was issued with a stern warning for the OSA offence.
Meanwhile, Ler, who was formerly head of the National Public Health Unit (NPHU), was charged under the Penal Code and OSA.
His charge sheet stated that he had access to the HIV Registry as part of his former position as NPHU head, and had failed to take reasonable care of the information by failing to retain possession of a thumb drive on which he had saved the HIV Registry.
In September 2018, Ler was convicted of abetting Brochez to commit cheating and providing false information to the police and the Health Ministry, and sentenced to two years' jail. He has appealed against this, with the hearing set for next month.
On two occasions in 2008 and 2013, Brochez, who is HIV-positive, conspired with Ler to submit fake blood tests to the Ministry of Manpower for his employment pass applications.
In both instances, Brochez went to a clinic where Ler was working as a stand-in doctor for a medical test, but the blood sample used was from Ler, who labelled it with his partner's particulars.
"AGC decided to go to trial against Ler on the cheating and false information charges first, as they were more serious and carried stiffer penalties," said Mr Gan.
The trial for Ler's drug charges will be held in May this year, as it also involves stiffer penalties, including caning.
His OSA charge is currently stood down, which means it has been put aside until proceedings on his other charges have been concluded.
Said Mr Gan: "So that there is no doubt, let me say again that the OSA charge against Ler is still 'live'. AGC will decide on the OSA charge after proceedings on his other charges have concluded. This is the usual course."