Thai court gives Japanese man custody of surrogate kids

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

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

Shigeta's freakish 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.

A wealthy Japanese man was granted "sole parent" rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers, a Bangkok court ruled Tuesday, paving the way for him to take custody of the group in Japan.

Shigeta won custody of the other four children born via surrogacy in Thailand before this week's ruling. As a major shareholder, he earns millions of dollars a year in dividends.

Shigeta, who has kept an extremely low profile, did not attend the court's sessions and had a lawyer represent him.

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

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.

Some surrogacy agencies are now offering services to carry out the embryo transfer in Laos and then provide pregnancy care for the surrogate in Thailand, a wealthier country with vastly superior medical facilities.

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.

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It said DNA evidence confirmed that Shigeta is the children's father, and that he plans to send the children to an global school and has bought a piece of land to house them next to a large park in central Tokyo, where they will be looked after by nurses and nannies.

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". According to her, Shigeta told the clinic's manager he "wanted to win elections and could use his big family for voting", and that "the best thing I can do for the world is to leave many children".

He was deemed the "sole parent" as his surrogates had already signed away their rights. That law sent much of the country's surrogacy-for-hire business for foreigners to Cambodia, which later passed its own law against it. The children were taken to foster homes and the father has petitioned for custody since early 2015. They were not among the 13 babies in Thailand.

"The next step for us is to contact the Social Development and Human Security Ministry to take over the care of the children", Shigeta's lawyer Kong Suriyamontol said, after hearing the verdict. His lawyer in Thailand said he simply wants a big family.

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