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Former deputy editor of The Straits Times wonders why the culprit behind the HIV data leak wasn’t dealt with as seriously as other offenders under the OSA

Former deputy editor of The Straits Times, Alan John wonders why the culprit behind the recent HIV data leak fiasco wasn’t charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for committing such a serious offence, whereas other less serious offenders were charged in this Act.

Mr John wrote, “I’ve been stuck at the fact that there was this massive breach of the Official Secrets Act and it was kept quiet until this week…Meanwhile, other individuals have been dealt with under the OSA for doing much, much less.”

On Monday (28 January), MOH revealed that the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people – along with confidential information such as their identification numbers and contact details – has been leaked online by an “unauthorised person”.

The records were those of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV from 1985 to January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners, including work and visit pass applicants and holders, diagnosed with HIV from 1985 to December 2011.

MOH has revealed that about 1,900 names in the leaked data were of people who had already died.

The suspect is former Singapore resident, US citizen Mikhy K Farrera Brochez who is currently residing outside of the island. He was convicted of numerous fraud and drug offences, as well as lying to the Ministry of Manpower about his HIV status, the health ministry said.

Brochez was remanded in prison in June 2016, sentenced to 28 months’ jail and deported from Singapore in April 2018. At the time of writing, Brochez is yet to be apprehended for leaking the HIV data.

His partner, Ler Teck Siang, was the head of MOH’s National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013. Prior to resigning in January 2014, Ler had access to the HIV registry as required for his work, the ministry said.

In Mr John’s post, he said that a police report was quietly made in 2016, and a charge included in the doctor’s case but it was stood down and it doesn’t look like any court reporter spotted it.

Under the OSA, there are many more individuals who committed a less serious offence were charged under this Act.

In December 2017, a HDB officer was fined S$2,000 for breaching the OSA by giving confidential information to a Straits Times (ST) journalist.

Those convicted of an offence under the OSA can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to S$2,000.

Besides that, a former policeman was also sentenced to a jail term of seven months and six weeks, and ordered to pay S$1,000 penalty because he received payment for showing a member of the public confidential police photographs in August 2017. He was found guilty for violating the OSA.

If that is not all, in September last year an ICA officer charged with accepting sex as bribes and breaching the OSA.

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