Tuesday 19 February 2019

Thai court gives Japanese millionaire custody of 13 babies

The surrogate babies are shown at a police news conference. Photo: Reuters
The surrogate babies are shown at a police news conference. Photo: Reuters

Kaweewit Kaewjinda

A Thai court has 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 headlines four years ago.

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 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 (28), who did not attend the court's sessions, is the son of tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, founder of the Japanese technology company Hikari Tsushin.

He earns more than 100 million baht (€2.51m) in annual dividends, which shows he is financially capable of looking after the children, the court said in a statement. 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.

The court's statement did little to lift the veil of mystery over Shigeta, who had minimal contact with the surrogates.

In 2014, a woman, who asked to be called by the pseudonym "Wassana" to avoid embarrassment to her family, was recruited through an online advertisement to be one of his surrogates. She recalled meeting Shigeta for the first time two months after giving birth at the fertility clinic that arranged the deal, for which she was paid $10,000 (€8,100).

"He didn't say anything to me," said Wassana, who took on the surrogacy job to help pay her rent. "He never introduced himself. He only smiled and nodded."

According to Tuesday's court statement, Shigeta has taken care of other children, born from surrogacy, and raised them in Japan and Cambodia, where they were well looked after. The children that he cared for in Japan now all have Japanese citizenship, it said.

Cambodia inherited much of the surrogacy-for-hire business for foreigners after Thailand banned it, but later passed its own law against it.

Irish Independent

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