MOH takes legal action in US against Brochez

The Health Ministry revealed on Jan 28 that American Mikhy Farrera Brochez got hold of the details of 14,200 people diagnosed with HIV here since 1985, and leaked the data, which included their names, contact details and medical information. He has d
The Health Ministry revealed on Jan 28 that American Mikhy Farrera Brochez got hold of the details of 14,200 people diagnosed with HIV here since 1985, and leaked the data, which included their names, contact details and medical information. He has denied the allegations. Brochez has been charged in a Kentucky court with the possession and unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents.PHOTO: ARDEN BARNES FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

It seeks to prevent further disclosure, and the return, of HIV data the American has stolen

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is taking legal action in the United States courts against American Mikhy Farrera Brochez to reacquire the stolen HIV Registry data in his possession.

In two separate statements yesterday, the MOH first said it had filed civil proceedings in the US courts before elaborating later that it has sought an injunction from the US courts to "prevent further disclosure of the confidential information that Mikhy Brochez had obtained from the Singapore Government, and to get him to return the information".

These moves came shortly after the US Justice Department said last Friday that Brochez had been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was charged in a Kentucky court with the possession and unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents.

Brochez, 34, was named by the MOH last month as the culprit who leaked online the personal information of 14,200 individuals with HIV.

In a news release last Friday, the US Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky, said: "The criminal complaint alleges that Farrera-Brochez illegally possessed and intended to distribute data containing sensitive medical and other identifying information.

"While living in the Eastern District of Kentucky, Farrera Brochez sent links to the data from his e-mail account to several news outlets. He also sent e-mails to several government officials in Singapore containing links to the data."

  • TIMELINE

  • April 2016: Mikhy Farrera Brochez is arrested for repeatedly refusing to take a blood test. He gives the authorities a list of 75 names and particulars from the HIV Registry.

    June: Charged with offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Penal Code and Infectious Diseases Act.

    March 2017: Convicted and jailed for 28 months, inclusive of time served in remand since June 2016.

    April 2018: Released from prison and deported.

    May: Brochez sends a screenshot to government authorities containing the details of 31 persons found to be among the original 75 names he disclosed in 2016. MOH makes police report and contacts the 31 individuals. At this point, the 31 records do not appear to have been disclosed publicly.

    Dec 8: Brochez is arrested for criminal trespass at the home of his mother Teresa King in Clark County of Winchester, Kentucky, in the United States.

    January 2019: MOH becomes aware that he probably still possesses the entire HIV Registry. He puts the information online and provides the link to a non-government party.

    Feb 17: The Singapore Prison Service lodges a police report against Brochez for sending a list of 13 HIV-positive inmates to some government authorities and media organisations.

    The e-mail sent the previous day contained photos of a piece of paper listing identification numbers of 13 inmates - including himself - who were scheduled for a medical check-up on March 28, 2018 at Changi Prison Complex.

    Feb 18: Brochez pleads not guilty to a charge of criminal trespass on his mother's property. Feb 22: The US Department of Justice announces that Brochez has been charged in a Kentucky court with possession and unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents.

    Feb 23: Singapore says it is seeking an injunction from the US courts to stop Brochez from further disclosure of the confidential information and to return the information.

Hours later, the MOH and Singapore Police Force said in a joint statement: "The Singapore authorities are aware that Brochez has been arrested and charged in court in Kentucky, USA. The Singapore authorities have been working closely with our US counterparts.

"Concurrently, we have also filed civil proceedings in the US courts, and are doing everything we can to protect the interests of the individuals affected."

MOH revealed on Jan 28 that Brochez got hold of the details of 14,200 people diagnosed with HIV here since 1985, and leaked the data, which included their names, contact details and medical information. He has denied the allegations.

Brochez lived in Singapore from 2008 before being jailed in 2017 for fraud and drug-related offences and lying to the Manpower Ministry about his HIV status to get an employment pass. He was released from prison last April and deported.

In Parliament this month, Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said police will "spare no effort" in bringing Brochez to justice.

The Straits Times had earlier reported that a tricky process lay ahead in seeking Brochez's return to Singapore, as he is not the subject of an arrest warrant here nor is he facing charges under the Official Secrets Act.

MOH's decision to seek an injunction is one of several legal options the authorities could pursue after filing civil proceedings, lawyers The Sunday Times spoke to said.

Hilborne Law managing director Rajan Supramaniam said these could be claims for damages, intrusion into a person's privacy or defamation.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said: "It is unlikely that the authorities here will be suing him for damages, because compensation will be grossly inadequate for the distress and anguish caused. What is precious are the stolen records, and the imperative is to compel him to return what he has stolen, so that further leaks are prevented."

Last Monday, Brochez was in court to face trespassing charges, after having been arrested last December for refusing to leave his mother's home in Clark County in Winchester, Kentucky.

PROTECTING INDIVIDUALS AFFECTED

The Singapore authorities are aware that Brochez has been arrested and charged in court in Kentucky, USA. The Singapore authorities have been working closely with our US counterparts.

Concurrently, we have also filed civil proceedings in the US courts, and are doing everything we can to protect the interests of the individuals affected.

THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND THE SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE IN A JOINT STATEMENT

The Sunday Times understands Brochez is being detained at the request of the US government, pending the outcome of the stolen data case. He will appear before a judge in Kentucky on Wednesday to determine if he should continue to be detained while the case is pending.

Additional reporting by Charissa Yong

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'MOH takes legal action in US against Brochez'. Print Edition | Subscribe