KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — A US court has found an American man guilty of trying to extort the Singaporean government with data from a leaked HIV database.
BBC reported that the Kentucky court heard Mikhy Farrera-Brochez had sent two emails to Singaporean officials last year, threatening to release details of the official database containing the HIV status of 14,000 people in Singapore, unless his husband was released from jail and the registry closed.
Brochez, who pleaded not guilty, reportedly said in his defence that he had wanted to highlight security lapses in the database and found the existence of the registry discriminatory against gay people.
Straits Times reported Brochez’s lawyer, Adele Burt Brown, as saying that her client acknowledged leaking the HIV database early this year, but he did not admit to its initial 2016 leak.
The Singaporean government said last January that the confidential information of over 14,000 people on the database was leaked online, including HIV test results, names, identification numbers, phone numbers, and addresses.
“He did not mean to extort. He meant… to get Singapore to acknowledge that it had allowed a database,” Brown was quoted saying.
Brochez reportedly told the court that Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) did not need to register people with HIV for scientific and health purposes, after MOH communicable diseases director Vernon Lee testified that the registry collected patients’ personal data to target education activities and to understand the spread of the virus.
“You can collect their data anonymously. You don’t need their names to know their sexual practices.”
Brochez was convicted of three charges of intent to extort from the Singaporean government and of unlawfully possessing the HIV database with the intent to violate US federal law.
The 34-year-old man faces up to nine years’ jail and a fine of US$750,000.