HIV data leak: Brochez ran education centre in Hong Kong, says SCMP

(SCREENCAP: sites.google.com/a/guiaeducation.com)

The American fraudster at the centre of a massive HIV data leak in Singapore ran an education centre in Hong Kong, charging as much as HK$8,000 (S$1,379) for each assessment of a child with special needs, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday (21 February).

Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, 34, who is believed to have been in Hong Kong before moving to Singapore in 2008, is listed on the website of a local centre called Guia Education as its executive director.

Guia Education’s website carries a photograph of Brochez and lists his credentials as “APA, APS, MCollT, MS DPSY, DipED”. APA refers to the American Psychological Association and APS to the American Physiological Society.

The site – created in December 2009 and last updated in February 2015 – also lists eight other staff members.

But neither Brochez nor any of Guia Education’s staff are on the APA member database, wrote the SCMP, citing an APA spokesperson.

The education centre’s Facebook page has also not been updated since April 2016.

The site also lists its office address as the 16th floor of Island Place, King’s Road No 500 in North Point, but the SCMP only found a low-rise shopping centre during a visit there.

While in Singapore, Brochez worked at an unnamed educational services company as well as taught in Temasek Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. His full employment history in Singapore remains unknown.

His educational certificates, reportedly including a linguistics degree from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s degree in developmental and child psychology as well as a doctorate in psychology and education from the University of Paris, were later found to be forged during police investigations.

The SCMP reported that Brochez could be charged in Hong Kong for fraud and violating the trade descriptions ordinance if he had used fake qualifications to sell services to parents, citing Albert Luk Wai-hung, a barrister from the Chinese territory.

Brochez could be charged with these two offences, even if the centre never had any clients and if he did, he could face further charges, Luk was quoted as saying.

Allegations by Brochez refuted

Brochez was named by the Ministry of Health (MOH) last month 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. According to the SCMP, the couple got to know each other on a gay dating site and met for the first time in Hong Kong in 2007.

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, revealed Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament last Tuesday.

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.

A series of posts repeating these claims was also put up on Facebook on the same day by a user claiming to be “Mikhy Brochez”, prompting the authorities to issue statements rebutting what they termed as “baseless claims” made by a “pathological liar”.

The Facebook profile was removed by the social media giant less than 24 hours later for violating its user policies.

Among Brochez’s 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.

Brochez 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 denied the allegations.

Last Sunday, 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.

The email was sent a day before to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam as well as media organisations, including Yahoo News Singapore, Singapore broadsheet The Straits Times, US-based Lexington Herald Leader and Vice News.

It remains unclear whether the 13 individuals were part of those affected in the massive data leak.

Brochez, who is now in the US, appeared before a district court in Kentucky on 18 February (US time) to face a third-degree criminal trespass charge for trespassing his mother’s home in Clark County in December last year.

His case there would be heard again on 4 March, according to a report by Channel NewsAsia.

Related stories:

Singapore’s HIV data leak: 5 burning questions to ask MOH and others

Singapore’s HIV data leak: A recap of what we know so far

COMMENT: HIV data leak – What is your excuse now, MOH?

HIV data leak: Affected persons can sue MOH but proving damages would be hard, lawyers say