Mikhy Farrera-Brochez: US man guilty of trying to extort Singapore over HIV data

A person holding a vial of blood Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Singapore keeps official records of any citizen or foreigner in the country who is HIV positive

An American man has been found guilty by a US court of trying to extort the Singaporean government over information in a leaked official HIV database.

The court in Kentucky heard Mikhy Farrera-Brochez had sent two emails to Singaporean officials in 2018.

In them he said he had possession of an official database containing the HIV status of 14,000 people in Singapore.

He threatened to release details of it unless his husband was released from prison and the database closed.

Ler Teck Siang, a Singaporean doctor who had official access to the database, was jailed last year in Singapore under the Official Secrets Act for failing to protect the information.

Brochez, who pleaded not guilty, argued in his defence that he wanted to draw attention to security lapses in the database and that its existence was discriminatory.

He said the information should be anonymous as it could be used to persecute men who have sex with men, which is a crime in Singapore.

The Singaporean government said it would do "irreparable damage to the individuals identified" if the information were made public.

Brochez, who is HIV positive, had moved to Singapore in 2008, at a time when the country refused entry to HIV-positive foreigners.

The ban was lifted in 2015, but Singapore still refuses to grant work permits to most HIV-positive foreigners.

He was jailed in 2017 and subsequently deported after it was found he had used his partner's blood to pass a mandatory HIV test. He has also admitted using fake degrees to get his job as a lecturer.

He told the court he had obtained access to the HIV database - which contained the personal information of 5,400 Singaporeans and 8,800 foreigners - in 2012. He sent parts of it to his mother in the US - who testified against him in court on Tuesday - and then later took it out of the country.

Prosecutors said he had sent emails to Singaporean officials in January 2019 including links to places he'd dumped some of the data online and threatening to release more if his demands were not met.

The FBI tracked Brochez down to a barn in rural Kentucky in February, where he was arrested.

His lawyer, Adele Burt Brown, was quoted by the Straits Times as saying he had not intended to extort. "He meant in his mind to do a good thing: to get Singapore to acknowledge that it had allowed a database."

But Assistant US attorney Dmitry Slavin said in his ruling that "there are right ways and a wrong way" to deal with complaints against governments. "He chose extortion."

Brochez was convicted on three charges. He will be sentenced in September and could face a jail term of up to nine years and a fine of $750,000 (£590,000).

The Singaporean government has a separate civil case against him to demand to return of the information from the database.

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