Yesterday (12 Feb) in Parliament, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong tried to explain why Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the American who allegedly leaked information from Singapore’s HIV Registry, was not charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 3 years ago, back in 2016.
Brochez was only charged with offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Penal Code and Infectious Diseases Act.
Brochez’s partner, Ler Teck Siang, however, was charged under OSA together with the other charges. But Ler’s OSA charge is currently being stood down, which means it has been put aside until proceedings on his other charges have been concluded.
So, that means to say, back in 2016, the public wouldn’t know about private sensitive HIV information had already been leaked to non-authorised person like Brochez.
The only thing the public would know back then with regard to the OSA charge would be the information on Ler’s charge sheet, which stated that Ler 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. It certainly didn’t say much about information being leaked to 3rd parties.
Gan: AGC decided on the charges for Brochez
In any case, Gan explained that Brochez was already facing other charges that carried heavier penalties.
Gan said that it was the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) who decided on the charges. “AGC decided not to charge him (Brochez) under the OSA because they assessed that he would likely be sentenced to a fine only, or at most a few weeks in jail,” Gan said.
“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.”
Also, there had been no wide dissemination of the information at that stage, Gan added. Still, Brochez did possess official information which he was not supposed to have.
The government only issued a “stern warning” to Brochez with regard to his OSA offence.
Said Gan, “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.”
MOH only disclosed to the public early this year (2019) about the leak after sensitive HIV information began to appear online publicly, 3 years after the information was leaked to Brochez.
AGC decided to charge driver for both corruption and contravening OSA
Indeed, it is the AGC who would decide who, what and when to prosecute on a case-to-case basis.
For example in 2017, driver Lim Sua Huat, a middleman for a gang leader, was charged with 4 counts of corruption together with 3 other charges of contravening the OSA.
Lim gave bribes to a police officer who showed him photographs of a group of men arrested for rioting.
Lim eventually pleaded guilty to three of the seven charges – two for giving bribes and one for receiving information in breach of the OSA. The police officer was subsequently also dealt with.
Lim was later given a jail sentence. In Lim’s case, the heavier sentence carried by the corruption charges compared to the OSA charges had not stopped AGC from prosecuting Lim with corruption charges together with OSA charges.