Interpol said yesterday it had launched a multinational investigation into what Thailand has dubbed the "baby factory" case: a Hong Kong-based Japanese businessman who has 16 surrogate babies and an alleged desire to father hundreds more.
Police raided a Bangkok condominium this month and found nine babies and nine nannies living in a few unfurnished rooms filled with baby bottles, bouncy chairs, play pens and diapers. They have since identified Mitsutoki Shigeta, 24, as the father of those babies - and seven others.
"What I can tell you so far is that I've never seen a case like this," said Thailand's Interpol director, police Major General Apichart Suribunya. "We are trying to understand what kind of person makes this many babies."
Apichart said Interpol offices in Hong Kong, Japan, Cambodia, and India had been asked to probe Shigeta's background. Police say he appears to have registered businesses or apartments in all four places and frequently travelled between them.
"We are looking into two motives. One is human trafficking and the other is exploitation of children," said Thai police Lieutenant General Kokiat Wongvorachart, Thailand's lead investigator in the case.
He said Shigeta had made 41 trips to Thailand since 2010. On many occasions he travelled to nearby Cambodia, where he took four of his babies.
Shigeta has not been charged with any crime. He is trying to get his children back - the 12 in Thailand are being cared for by social services - and he has proven through DNA samples sent from Japan that he is their biological father. He quickly left Thailand after the August 5 raid and has said through a lawyer that he simply wanted a large family. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Kokiat said Shigeta hired 11 Thai surrogate mothers to carry his children, including four sets of twins. The biological mothers were unknown.
The founder of a fertility clinic that provided Shigeta with two surrogates said she warned Interpol about him before the first baby was born in June last year. The Thai Interpol office said it never saw the warnings.
"As soon as they got pregnant he requested more. He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he's dead," said Mariam Kukunashvili, founder of the New Life clinic, which operates in Thailand and six other countries. He also inquired about equipment to freeze his sperm to have sufficient supply when he's older.
Kukunashvili said he told the clinic's manager that "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."