Six months ago, the Ministry of Health in Singapore announced that the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people had been leaked online by an “unauthorised person”, along with confidential information including ID numbers and contact details. The patients had been a mix of Singaporeans and foreigners diagnosed between 1985 and 2011. Of the Singaporeans, 1,900 had died. Of the others, 90% were male.
Investigators found that the information was leaked by an HIV-positive gay American named Mikhy K Ferrara Brochez who had lived in Singapore from 2008. He was convicted, served 28 months in a Singapore jail and deported in 2018.
The Doctor Boyfriend
Before arriving in Singapore, Brochez met and fell in love with a Singaporean doctor. To protect his lover, the doctor gave Brochez his own blood sample so that Brochez could pass the blood test required by the Ministry for Manpower for those wishing to work in Singapore. The doctor was something of a high flyer in the Singapore medical profession. Between March 2012 and May 2013, Ler Teck Siang became the Head of the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Public Health Unit. In that post he had access to HIV records. For reasons unclear at the time, Ler handed many of these over to Brochez.
It took a long time until the MOH become aware of the leak of documents but it had no idea how it had occurred. By this time Dr. Ler and Brochez had drifted apart and were no longer living together. With Ler obviously under suspicion, he was moved from his post and assigned to another role in the MOH where he would not have access to the HIV Registry.
Ler resigned from the MOH in January 2014. By early 2016 the MOH suspected a conspiracy involving both Ler and Brochez. A police report against Brochez was lodged. The apartments of both men were searched and materials seized. Brochez was arrested and charged with various crimes.
By May 2018 Brochez had served his sentence and left Singapore. The MOH then received information that Brochez was in possession of additional copies of some of the HIV records. The police were informed, but nothing had been released and no information had up to that point been made public. Then the information appeared online. Explaining the MOH reasons for the slow process of its own investigations, the city state’s Permanent Secretary of Health, Chan Heng Kee, said
After Brochez had been deported, Ler was charged with abetting Brochez to commit cheating against the Ministry of Manpower and providing false information to the police and the MOH. In September last year he was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail. But he appealed and remained free on bail until the appeal could be heard in March this year. He also retained his doctor’s license."In a case where the information is more contained, we will take a more conservative approach given that we do know that the persons in this registry would have concerns about a public announcement"
The Lovers Fall Out
On February 12 this year Health Minister Gan Kim Yong delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament. The following was included in his remarks.
Brochez alleged that in November 2012 Ler disclosed the confidential information to him through screenshots of his own HIV status and that of others. Searcing through Brochez’ emails, it was discovered that he had at some time also sent the same screenshots he had received from Ler to government authorities, as well as a file full of other confidential information.
It was clear that the break-up between Brochez and Ler had been acrimonious.
During their investigations, the police uncovered a lot of additional information regarding drug use involving the former lovers. It seemed certain that Ler might have been involved in more than just use of the drugs. Drug offences carry much stiffer penalties in Singapore. It was therefore decided to instigate a separate legal action against Ler while at the same time the police were attempting to gain more information from Brochez in the USA.
Ler Appeals Against His September 2018 Sentence
During his Appeal, Ler basically implied he had been set up. He stated that he had lied to the police by admitting to cheating offences when interrogated in September 2016. He claimed that this was to “retaliate” against the MOH “discrimination” of his sexual orientation. He added that he was led to believe that the interrogation was only for the purpose of assisting into investigations regarding the data breach at the MOH. In fact, he said, it was “clearly for the primary purpose of extracting a confession to cheating.”
By this time aged 37, Ler also claimed that Brochez had not been HIV positive when he was tested after his arrival in Singapore. He also denied providing his own blood to Brochez. Ler lost his Appeal, commenced his jail sentence and his medical registration was suspended for nine months.
Ler’s New Trial on Sex and Drug Charges
Ler’s second trial commenced at the end of May. The revelations of extensive drug use and gay sex parties have shocked Singapore.
One of the charges is that Ler used his medical skills to provide “slamming services” to others. I had never heard of this expression before. Apparently it means administering controlled drugs by injection. Specifically he was charged with twice administering metamphetamine to a man named Sim Eng Chee at the Swissotel The Stamford Hotel in February 2018 and again at The Conrad Centennial Hotel five days later. But before the two men could enter Sim’s room at the Conrad, hotel staff had discovered drugs and drug-related paraphernalia in the room. The two were detained and arrested. Ler faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
Yesterday, 44-year old Sim took the witness stand. Already a regular drug user before he met Ler, Sim stated he is a tutor and consultant earning between S$7,000 and S$10,000 per month (as much as US$7,400). Sim told the court that he had come to know of Ler at a “session” where two or more gay sex buddies had met to take drugs and engage in sex.
Sim claims he noticed that his sex partner had a high that was not induced by smoking meth. After asking him about it, he was told that Ler had provided slamming services for him. He was given Ler’s contact on Grindr where he used the name “Todd”. Sim added that Ler had once used the name “Help is here”. Sim used the name “Altitude” on Grindr.
After meeting Ler, Sim began to use his service to administer meth. Sim and Ler worked out a way for Sim to contact Ler when his services were required. In some messages, Sim would specify the amount of meth he would require as well as how many people would be requiring Ler’s services at the next gay sex party. Sometimes, Sim alleges, he would seek Ler’s services twice a day. Sim also invited Ler to take part in the orgies.
Ler’s services to Sim and his sex partners continued for more than six months before both were arrested. Sim was paid a small fee of S$40 for his services which he occasionally asked to be paid for in the form of other grugs Sim used."Since he will be there to inject me, I don't mind him staying around to play if he's open to it," said Sim. "Because I think if we engage in drugs and the sexual activities that follow, inhibitions will be removed and we are technically quite fine with having sex with everyone."
The trial continues today. Ler is conducting his own defence dressed in his prison garb.
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