Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the American at the centre of the recent HIV data leak in Singapore, was ordered by a United States court on Monday (4 March) to hand over all copies of any confidential data from the Singapore government immediately.
The Straits Times reported that the 34-year-old also has until 29 March to permanently delete all sensitive or private information obtained from the authorities in Singapore, whether it is saved on any computer or uploaded onto any platform.
Should he fail to comply with the injunction, he can be held in contempt of court and fined or jailed, according to the Straits Times report.
Civil lawsuit by MOH to stop spreading of data
The court order was part of a preliminary injunction sought by Ministry of Health (MOH), after it filed a civil lawsuit against Brochez in February in a federal court in the US state of Kentucky, in a bid to stop his spreading of the leaked data.
According to The Straits Times, Monday’s court order ruled that Brochez must remove all posts on all social media platforms which refer to the confidential information or are related to the data leak. He is also banned from making any more such posts. Those whom he sent the data to must also do the same.
Brochez is already under a temporary restraining order, which bars him from disclosing the confidential information. According to The Straits Times, US District Judge Danny Reeves said Brochez is likely to persist in his efforts to spread the leaked data, had the preliminary injunction not been granted on Monday.
“The defendant has indicated in a Facebook post that he feels ‘wronged’ by the Government of Singapore and has repeatedly threatened to disseminate the information if his husband is not released from custody,” said the judge in the written grounds for his decision, seen by The Straits Times.
The judge also noted that MOH was likely to succeed in showing that Brochez committed an invasion of privacy under Kentucky law. He also accepted MOH’s argument that Singaporeans who were identified through the registry would be irreparably harmed if the information was released publicly, and that MOH’s reputation would be harmed should the information be further spread.
Brochez was due in court on Monday on a separate criminal trespassing charge. The hearing was postponed to July because he is in detention until the federal criminal case is concluded.
Background of HIV registry leak
The American was named by the MOH in January as the culprit behind a massive HIV registry leak containing confidential data of 14,200 HIV-positive individuals and 2,400 others who were identified through contact tracing.
The leaked data included the affected individuals’ names, identification numbers, contact details, HIV test results, and related medical information.
He was then in a relationship with Ler Teck Siang, 37, the former head of the MOH’s National Public Health Unit who oversaw the HIV registry.
In June 2016, Ler was charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for “failing to retain possession of a thumb drive” containing data from the HIV registry. His OSA charge has been stood down pending his appeal.
Brochez, however, was only issued a stern warning for his OSA offence as it was deemed that he would likely receive only a fine or at most a few weeks’ jail for it, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed in Parliament on 12 February.
Repeatedly denied involvement in HIV leak
The American has repeatedly denied his involvement in the leak and detailed his allegations against the authorities in a lengthy interview with Vice News published a day after.
Among his allegations included being sexually assaulted in prison and contracting HIV while serving a 28-month sentence in Singapore for fraud and drug-related offences. He was deported from Singapore in April last year.
He also claimed that Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist who treated him in prison, had given him a list of HIV-positive inmates and originally told him that he did not have HIV. Dr Leong has denied the allegations.
On 17 February, the Singapore Prison Services said that it has filed a police report over an email sent by Brochez containing the confidential data of 13 HIV-positive individuals. It remains unclear whether the 13 individuals were part of those affected in the massive data leak.