A wealthy Japanese man was granted "sole parent" rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers, a Bangkok court ruled on Tuesday, paving the way for him to take custody of the group in Japan.
"I've never seen a case like this", the Thailand director of Interpol said about what the country dubbed the "baby factory", after tips led the global policing group to investigate amid concerns of human trafficking.
The case has also spurred a crackdown on Thailand's largely uncontrolled surrogacy business.
All 13 babies linked to Shigeta in Thailand have since been put under the care of the ministry's shelters for children, while Shigeta himself has assigned representatives to regularly visit his children.
The young children were found at the man's home outside Bangkok in 2014.
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"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.
Reuters reports that after it was established Mitsutoki had no links to human trafficking, the court ruled for custody in his favour mainly due to his financial situation.
He reportedly hired many Thai women to bear his children in 2014.
"He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he's dead", Kukunashvili told the AP in 2014. The law firm that represented him there, Siam Premier International, did not return a request for comment.
Shigeta fathered 17 children in total via surrogacy in Thailand before 2015. It is also an offence to broker a surrogacy deal on a commercial basis.
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Shigeta fled the country after the raid in 2014, the Bangkok Post reported at the time.
As he comes from a wealthy family, he has ample money and has prepared nurses and nannies to care for the children in Japan, the ruling stated.
"The case of Mitsutoki Shigeta is way outside the norm for cross-border surrogacy", Everingham said.
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. The man's lawyer had said his client wanted to have dozens of babies because he desired a large family and hoped that they would inherit his fortune in the future. 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. Police said he paid them between $9,300 and $12,500 each.
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