Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Japanese father granted sole custody of 13 surrogate children in Thailand

Japanese father granted sole custody of 13 surrogate children in Thailand

The case has also spurred a crackdown on Thailand's largely uncontrolled surrogacy business.

The case attracted global attention in 2014 after nine infants - then estimated to be aged between two weeks and two years - were found under the care of 24-hour nannies in a luxury Bangkok apartment.

A spokesman for Bangkok's Central Juvenile Court said: "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".

The scandal shone an global spotlight on Thailand's largely unregulated surrogacy business, prompting the authorities to crack down on clinics with nationwide inspections, and later to ban commercial surrogacy.

When the case was first lodged in 2014, Thai police had said the man was 24-years-old.

Mariam Kukunashvili, founder of the New Light clinic in Thailand that recruited some of the babies' surrogate mothers, told the AP in 2014 that Shigeta told her "he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he's dead".

Mitsutoki Shigeta, who was granted sole custody of his children by a Thai court on Tuesday, is the son of the founder of Japanese telecom and insurance company Hikari Tsushin.

Information from Tuesday's court decision and doctors and a fertility clinic has done little to lift the veil of mystery over Shigeta.

Thai authorities investigated Shigeta for human trafficking and child exploitation, but filed no charges.

He also has two children via surrogates in India, CNN reported.

When the babies were found in 2014, investigators discovered a number of unregulated surrogacy businesses in the country.

His lawyer, Kong Suriyamontol, said he would contact the ministry to discuss the next steps to transfer the children from state custody, but this could be delayed depending on the "readiness" of the youngsters, most of whom are aged about four.

He was deemed the "sole parent" as his surrogates had already signed away their rights. His lawyer in Thailand said he simply wants a big family.

During the trial, Shigeta produced evidence of financial means and a plan to care for the children, including drafted bank accounts and a home near a park in Tokyo, the AP reported.

Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals in 2014, including allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned their Down syndrome baby, leaving him with his Thai birth mother and taking only his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them.

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