Japanese wins custody of 13 kids born to surrogates

Mitsutoki Shigeta’s babies were discovered in his apartment in Bangkok. He has claimed he wants a large family to help him win an election in Japan

A Japanese man has won sole custody of 13 children in Thailand after he fathered them with Thai surrogate mothers.

The case of 28-year-old businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta harks back to late 2014, when Thai police said they had found 13 babies fathered by a Japanese national with nine Thai surrogate mothers.

The case of the surrogate babies came to light in 2014 when the police said they found 16 babies the man fathered with surrogate mothers in Thailand, BBC reported.

Shigeta's weird case threw a spotlight on the kingdom's unregulated rent-a-womb industry, prompting authorities to bar foreigners in 2015 from paying for Thai surrogates.

Four of the six children living in Cambodia and Japan were from Thai surrogates.

Media attend a press briefing where Thai police display projected pictures of surrogate babies born to a Japanese man who is at the centre of a surrogacy scandal during a press conference at the police headquarters in Chonburi, Thailand on August 12, 2014.

"Therefore, it is ruled that all the 13 children are legal children of the petitioner. and the petitioner is their sole guardian".

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

Shigeta, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, left Thailand soon after the accusations, but he later sued the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for custody of the children.

Several Japanese magazines and online publications nonetheless identified him as a son of Japanese tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, founder and chief executive officer of the Japanese communications and technology company Hikari Tsushin.

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.

A Bangkok court yesterday granted him legal rights to take the children, saying he had ample money to care for them and had prepared nurses and nannies at a safe residence in Japan.

Shigeta "was born into a big family and wanted the children to grow up together", the lawyer said, adding that he also wanted the kids to help run his family's business. Those children were raised in Japan and Cambodia and were well cared for, the court said.

After Thailand clamped down on the trade surrogacy agencies quickly migrated to Cambodia, which followed suit and barred the industry in 2016. After authorities revealed him as the father, his lawyers blanketed Japanese media with demands to not publish his name or names of his family members, though that proved to be unsuccessful.

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