Japanese 'baby factory' dad wins custody of 13 Thai surrogate children

Nine babies were found in a Bangkok flat in 2014

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.

The Bangkok Central Juvenile and Family Court chose to return the children to Shigeta as the sole parent, "ruling that he is financially stable and had showed his plans to care for them", according to the Washington Post.

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

The case, along with several others, helped usher in a Thai law prohibiting commercial surrogacy for foreign clients.

On Tuesday, the Bangkok court said in its ruling that since Shigeta belongs to a wealthy family, he had enough money to take care of the children.

Vitat Techabun, the Director-General of Thailand's Department of Children and Youth, told reporters that government officials would help ease the children's transition to their new living arrangements, and conduct regular checks to safeguard their welfare.

The case has also spurred a crackdown on Thailand's largely uncontrolled surrogacy business. Now he is only referred to in the Japanese-language media as an anonymous 28-year-old man.

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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".

Thai authorities took the children into custody, suspecting the man was planning to traffic them.

Shigeta, reportedly the son of a Japanese information technology tycoon, left the country in the wake of the scandal and has never directly explained why he fathered so many children.

"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 worldwide policing group to investigate amid concerns of human trafficking.

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. As of 2015 foreigners are barred from paying for Thai surrogates.

When asked why the man would want so many children at the same time, his Thai lawyer Kong Suriyamonthon said: "He has personal and business reasons".

Court documents revealed that he had hired nine women to give birth to his children in 2013.

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