Japan man wins custody of 13 surrogate children

Published: February 20, 2018 13:39:05 | Updated: February 21, 2018 14:58:46

Surrogate babies that Thai police suspect were fathered by a Japanese businessman who has fled from Thailand are shown on a screen during a news conference. (Reuters file photo)

A Bangkok court has awarded paternity rights to a Japanese man over 13 babies he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers.

The ruling allows Mitsutoki Shigeta, 28, to pursue custody of the children.

The son of a wealthy entrepreneur, he caused controversy in 2014 when he was revealed to have fathered 16 babies via surrogates in Thailand.

His so-called ‘baby factory’ case and others led to Thailand banning commercial surrogacy for foreigners, says a BBC report.

Shigeta, who was not present at the trial, was awarded ‘sole parent’ rights after the Thai surrogates forfeited their rights, according to the court, which did not name him.

"For the happiness and opportunities which the 13 children will receive from their biological father, who does not have a history of bad behaviour, the court rules that all 13 born from surrogacy to be legal children of the plaintiff," Bangkok's Central Juvenile Court said in a statement.

In 2014, Shigeta was investigated by Interpol for human trafficking after it emerged he had fathered 16 surrogate children in Thailand.

His Bangkok apartment was raided and police found nine surrogate babies, nannies and a pregnant surrogate mother there.

He left Thailand soon after, but later sued the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for custody of the children.

When a blurred airport security photo was published, more than three years ago, of Mitsutoki Shigeta, holding an infant as he left Thailand, there was fevered speculation over his motives for siring so many children with surrogate mothers.

Some of the children had already been taken to Cambodia, and the Thai police began investigating him for possible human trafficking.

But his lawyer insisted he simply wanted a very large family, and that as the son of a wealthy Japanese entrepreneur he was able to look after them properly.

A court in Bangkok has now accepted that explanation: Thai officials told the court they had travelled to Cambodia and Japan, and found he had enough carers and facilities to bring up the 13 children who are still in state care in Thailand.

In 2015 he was awarded custody of the three other children.

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