US court grants MOH temporary restraining order against Brochez, American at centre of HIV data leak

Mikhy Brochez is temporarily prohibited by the order from disclosing any information from the Ministry of Health.
Mikhy Farrera Brochez is temporarily prohibited by the order from disclosing any information from the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been granted a temporary restraining order by a United States court against the American who stole and leaked information from Singapore's HIV database, The Straits Times has learnt.

The order, given last Tuesday, temporarily prohibits Mikhy Farrera Brochez from disclosing any information from the ministry.

It came ahead of last Friday's arrest of the 34-year-old, who has been charged in a Kentucky court in the United States with the possession and unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents.

US court documents obtained by The Straits Times shed more light on the civil suit that the MOH has filed.

The documents detailed that the ministry had requested for an emergency ex parte temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Brochez on Feb 14.

In making its case to the court, the ministry had said that while it was working to disable access to the confidential information disclosed online, the data is still in Brochez's possession and he could still publicly disclose it.

The restraining order did not require notice to be given to Brochez.

 
 
 
 

The MOH had also earlier said it had sought the injunction to order Brochez to return the information. Court papers also said the ministry requested that Brochez hand over the names and contact information of all the people and entities he had disclosed the information to.

Documents for a separate case investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in which Brochez was charged last Friday also revealed that he had housed the stolen HIV information on the Google Drive cloud platform.

He then sent Google Drive links to individuals as well as people in the US and Singapore governments and media outlets.

In an affidavit filed on Friday, FBI special agent Chelsea Holliday, who handled the case, said Brochez contacted the bureau in November last year, to make various allegations.

Among them, he claimed that his partner Ler Teck Siang had "married him under false pretences" and conspired with the Singapore Government to falsely imprison him, but did not provide proof.

Ler was head of the MOH's National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013 and had access to the HIV Registry for his work.

Ler has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients.

Brochez and the agent spoke several times after, but she told him the FBI could not begin an investigation into a foreign government based "solely on his word".

Last month, Brochez contacted her again, saying he had important information and believed the Singapore Government was going to try to kidnap him.

"Brochez refused to explain what he wanted from the FBI, appeared to be emotionally distressed and was erratic," she said.

She learnt this month from reports that Brochez had possession of a database containing information of 14,200 people who tested positive for HIV.

In a phone call with Brochez last Tuesday, he had told her he would commit suicide rather than turn over the database. He also threatened to release the database to the public if Ler was not released.

The agent added that Brochez's mother, Ms Teresa King, had said during a phone interview that her son was mentally ill and that she was "extremely afraid" of him. He has pleaded not guilty to trespassing on her property. 

Last Thursday, Brochez was arrested in Jackson, Kentucky, and transferred to FBI custody. He was charged in court the next day, and is next due in court on Wednesday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2019, with the headline 'US court grants MOH temporary restraining order against Brochez'. Print Edition | Subscribe