Doctor at heart of HIV data leak suspended from practising for 9 months

Doctor at heart of HIV data leak suspended from practising for 9 months

Ler Teck Siang leaving court 3
Ler Teck Siang (foreground) leaving the High Court during his appeal against his conviction and sentence for cheating offences. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: The doctor at the centre of the HIV data leak in Singapore could face further disciplinary action after his medical registration was suspended for nine months, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) announced on Tuesday (Mar 12). 

Ler Teck Siang was found guilty in September last year for helping his partner Mikhy Farrera Brochez deceive the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) about Brochez's HIV-positive status, and for giving false information to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the police. 

READ: Doctor at heart of HIV data leak claims he lied to police to 'retaliate' against MOH 'discrimination'

The suspension, which came into effect on Mar 7, was ordered by an Interim Orders Committee (IOC), said the SMC. 

The council's statement comes a day after Ler's appeal against his conviction and two-year jail sentence was dismissed by a High Court judge. 

The SMC added that it will "review the matter" and also consider "further disciplinary action" against the 37-year-old, who is expected to begin his prison term on Mar 21. 

SMC CONSIDERED SERIOUSNESS OF CONVICTIONS

Besides the guilty verdicts, the SMC was also told about four other charges against Ler, in relation to drugs and handling personal information.

On Jan 30, the SMC received information from MOH about a pending charge against Ler under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for failing to take reasonable care of information from a HIV registry. 

Ler is also facing three drug charges for allegedly trafficking methamphetamine to another man in a hotel, failing to give a urine specimen to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and for possessing drug utensils.

He has claimed trial to the drug charges and will return to court for proceedings in May.

READ: HIV-positive status of 14,200 people leaked online

Ler's practising certificate (PC) had expired on Dec 31 and the renewal of his PC was under review by the SMC.

The council added that while it recognised Ler's appeal, and that the charges against him had not been dropped, it "considered the seriousness of the convictions and the pending charges against Dr Ler". 

The SMC also took into consideration the need to maintain public confidence in the medical profession while criminal proceedings against Ler were ongoing.

"The information on the convictions and the pending charges was therefore referred to an IOC for the purpose of determining if it was necessary for the protection of members of the public or was otherwise in the public interest, or was in the interests of Dr Ler, that his registration be suspended or be made subject to conditions or restrictions," the council said.

Ler will start his two-year prison sentence on Mar 21 and is currently out on bail at S$40,000. 

Ler Teck Siang and Mikhy Farrera Brochez
Dr Ler Teck Siang and his partner Mikhy Farrera Brochez are at the centre of the data leak of Singapore's HIV registry. (Photos: Faith Medical Group, Clark County Detention Centre/Mugshots.com)

His husband Brochez is accused of leaking the personal data of 14,200 HIV-positive people from Singapore's registry.

Brochez served 28 months' jail for lying to MOM about his HIV status, along with other fraud and drug offences. He was deported in April last year.

He was last ordered by a US court on Mar 4 "to immediately" surrender the leaked data to Singapore's authorities and destroy all leaks. 

In an affidavit filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Feb 22, Brochez admitted that he had come “into possession of the database in Singapore” and taken it to the US.

He also told the FBI that he would leak more names and information if the Singapore Government did not release Ler.

Source: CNA/ad(mi)

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