Confidential information of 14,200 people with HIV, including their names, contact details and medical information, has been stolen and leaked online, and the culprit is an American fraudster, the Ministry of Health revealed on Monday (Jan 28).
According to MOH, the confidential information is in the illegal possession of Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, a male United States citizen who was residing in Singapore, on an employment pass, between January 2008 and June 2016.
The records included HIV test results, names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses and other health information.
As the head of MOH's National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013, Ler could access information in the HIV Registry for his work purposes.
However, Mr Chan Heng Kee, Permanent Secretary, MOH, said the information remains in the hands of Brochez, an American who was deported after he was released from prison in April past year for separate crimes, including drug offences and lying about his own HIV status in order to obtain an Employment Pass.More news: Eurozone faces growing risks, Draghi warns, as economic slowdown takes hold
The Ministry of Health says they first became aware that Brochez had access to the private information back in 2016 and immediately made a police report that resulted in Brochez's home being searched and materials seized.
Brochez - who could not be reached for comment - is now under investigation by Singaporean police, "and the authorities are seeking assistance from their foreign counterparts", the statement said.
The ministry said that Brochez was deported after serving his jail term and was now overseas, but it did not say where.
An HIV-positive USA expat now on the run has leaked the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people - plus their contact details and the names of some of their sex partners - from a Singaporean health database.
The statement said that the online information had been taken down but Brochez was still in possession of the same. It is indeed curious that the ministry held out until the information was actually leaked to inform the public of the illegal possession of confidential records.More news: Justin Rose claims 10th PGA Tour victory
The Health Ministry has set up a hotline for those who need additional information, and counsellors are also available to assist them and to provide additional support if necessary, he said. "We have been progressively contacting the individuals to notify them and render assistance".
"This reminds us of the insufferable stigma, fear and discrimination that continues to surround people living with HIV in Singapore today", Yangfa said. But the police did not know that the American still has the data stored somewhere.
He was convicted in September previous year of abetting Farrera-Brochez to cheat and of providing false information to the police and Ministry of Health (MOH).
Ler has also been charged under the Official Secrets Act for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients.
Sentenced to two years in jail, Ler is appealing against the sentence, with the hearing scheduled for March.More news: State of emergency declared over Washington measles outbreak
Access to the information has been blocked but it is still in the possession of the person who leaked it - and could be disclosed again, the ministry warned.