HIV data leak: Why Brochez was not charged under Official Secrets Act in 2016

Mikhy Farrera Brochez, who first alerted the authorities in April 2016 that he might have access to confidential HIV-related data, was not charged under the OSA then as he was already facing other fraud and drug-related charges, which carried heavier
Mikhy Farrera Brochez, who first alerted the authorities in April 2016 that he might have access to confidential HIV-related data, was not charged under the OSA then as he was already facing other fraud and drug-related charges, which carried heavier penalties.PHOTO: CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICE

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, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

Brochez first alerted the authorities in April 2016 that he might have access to confidential HIV-related data when he sent 75 names and particulars from the registry to the authorities.

But he was not charged under the OSA, and instead faced charges for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Penal Code and Infectious Diseases Act in June 2016.

Explaining the circumstances, Mr Gan told the House that the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) decided not to charge Brochez under the OSA after assessing that he would likely be sentenced to only a fine, or at most a few weeks in jail.

This was because there had been no wide dissemination of the information then, 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, revealing that Brochez was issued with a stern warning for the OSA offence.

Meanwhile, Brochez's partner Ler Teck Siang, who was formerly head of the National Public Health Unit (NPHU), was charged under the Penal Code and the 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 last year, Ler was convicted for abetting Brochez to commit cheating and providing false information to the police and Ministry of Health, and sentenced to two years in 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.

"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, as it also involves stiffer penalties, including caning. His OSA charge is currently stood down, which means it has been put aside until the proceedings on his other charges have been concluded.

"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," said Mr Gan.

Fabian Koh

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'Why Brochez was not charged under Official Secrets Act in 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe