At a district court hearing on 25 September, a Singaporean doctor admitted to have switched his own blood sample with that of his American boyfriend who is HIV-positive, so that he would be able to continue working in Singapore. Ler Teck Siang, the 36-year-old General Practitioner in question, admitted to switching the blood samples in an attempt to dismiss the police statement that he had carried out the act under coercion. Ler’s lawyer, Amarjit Singh, dismissed himself at the beginning of the trial following Ler’s actions, leaving the defendant unrepresented as of the commencement of the trial.

The blood swap incident

The centre of the case revolved around Ler’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Mikhy K Farrera-Brochez, who obtained employment in a Singapore polytechnic as a lecturer using the falsified blood-test results. Farrera-Brochez continued to work for several years until he was caught for committing several offences; including cheating, lying to a public servant, possession of drugs and using forged education certificates. As of 1 March 2017, Farrera-Brochez is serving 28 months in jail.

Following the incident with Farrera-Brochez, investigators then caught wind of the falsified blood test results. In his testimony, in March 2008, Ler drew his own blood and labelled it as that of Farrera-Brochez. This falsified blood test results were then used for Farrera-Brochez to apply for an Employment Pass with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), of which he passed.

Later, in November 2013, a similar offence was carried out when Farrera-Brochez had to apply to retain his Personalised Employment Pass. The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) surveillance and enforcement branch began to grow suspicious as Farrera-Brochez had not actually visited the Twin City Medical Centre to carry out his blood test. As part of the investigations into forged blood test, Ler allegedly lied to the investigation manager to cover up the switching of the blood samples.

Ler followed up with another lie in January 2014, claiming that Farrera-Brochez’s blood was the one tested for HIV in November 2013. But, by the time Farrera-Brochez was convicted on March, Ler’s actions had finally caught up to him.

Ler is accused not only of switching blood samples, but also lying to authorities about the forged blood results.
Ler is accused not only of switching blood samples, but also lying to authorities about the forged blood results.

Current charges against the accused

Ler, who has previously served as the head of MOH’s National Public Health Unit and as a medical officer at the Communicable Diseases Division, now faces four charges. If convicted of cheating, Ler can be jailed for up to 10 years, and fined on each charge. And if convicted of lying to a public servant, he can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to SGD5000 on each charge. Moreover, Ler’s licence to practise medicine would also be in jeopardy, following this incident.

Court documents also indicated that there may be a fifth charge under the Official Secret Act, which will be dealt with on a later court proceeding. For the fifth charge, Ler is accused of “failing to take reasonable care” of a thumb drive containing secret information pertaining to the details of people who had been tested HIV-positive in Singapore before February 2012.

In his defence, Ler has claimed that he was threatened during his investigation by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Roy Lim. “He put his face inches from mine,” Ler told the court. “He told me, ‘We know what you did. Why don’t you stop playing games and tell me what I want to hear?’” DSP Lim has denied these allegations.

The trial resumed on Tuesday. Ler has intentions of calling Farrera-Brochez and his mother to the witness stand in support of his defence. MIMS

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Sources:
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/accused-doc-admitted-switching-blood-sample
http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/doctor-accused-helping-hiv-positive-boyfriend-deceive-mom
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/doctor-on-trial-for-helping-hiv-positive-boyfriend-deceive-mom-9249176