Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Japanese man given custody of 13 surrogate kids

Published:Wednesday | February 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this August 12, 2014, file photo, the 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. (AP)

BANGKOK (AP):

A Thai court yesterday granted legal custody of 13 babies carried by surrogate mothers to a secretive Japanese millionaire who is their biological father, reviving a bizarre tale that captured tabloid headlines four years ago, but leaving some basic questions unanswered.

Mitsutoki Shigeta's case raised eyebrows in 2014 when police raided a Bangkok condominium and found nine babies and nine nannies living in unfurnished rooms. It was determined that Shigeta had fathered the children using Thai surrogate mothers. The case, along with several others, helped usher in a Thai law prohibiting commercial surrogacy for foreign clients.

Bangkok's Central Juvenile and Family Court gave Shigeta sole legal custody of the children, ruling that he is financially stable and had showed his plans to care for them.

The ruling said Shigeta had a right to custody because the children were born before the new law was enacted, and because the surrogate mothers signed documents waiving their custody rights.

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

Shigeta is the son of an owner of a Japanese company and earns over 100 million baht (US$3.1 million) in annual dividends, which shows he is financially capable of looking after the children, the court said in a statement. He is now 28 years old, according to a copy of his passport released by Thai police in 2014.

It said DNA evidence confirmed that Shigeta is the children's' father, and that he plans to send the children to an international 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.

The court also said Shigeta had opened bank accounts in Singapore for all 13 children whose custody he was awarded yesterday. Reports in the Thai media in 2014 said he had fathered 16 children in Thailand, but the court's decision mentioned only 13.