CRIME

'Child-tracker' app company disowns Hong Kong-based trafficking suspect

German firm behind mobile app to suspend Hong Kong-based father of 15 babies as an investor

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 6:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 2:55pm

A German company behind a child-tracking mobile phone app has distanced itself from a Hong Kong-based human trafficking suspect wanted by the authorities in Thailand.

Fugitive Mitsutoki Shigeta was a start-up investor in Familonet, a Hamburg-based company that developed a mobile application to monitor the movement of children and family members in 2012.

In response to questions from the Sunday Morning Post, a spokesman for Familonet said they had "initiated precautionary actions to suspend him as an investor of the company, in case the accusations are confirmed". Shigeta has a 4 per cent stake in the company. The spokesman said they had no knowledge of Shigeta's professional or personal background.

Shigeta, who is thought to rent a home in Hong Kong's SoHo district, is wanted by Thai police for questioning after he was found to have fathered 15 children through 11 surrogate mothers in Bangkok.

The 24-year-old Japanese national fled the Thai city for Macau earlier this month. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Reports in the Thai media said alarm bells were set off a year ago when Shigeta told a Bangkok surrogacy centre that he wanted to father dozens of children every year.

The Bangkok Post reported that Mariam Kukunashvili, co-founder of a clinic that supplied two surrogate mothers to the man, told the newspaper that she had warned Interpol about possible foul play after Shigeta displayed a rapacious demand for babies.

"In spite of the fact he is already expecting six babies, he again requests from us to make more and more babies and to provide him with more and more surrogate mothers," Kukunashvili reportedly wrote to the international police body.

Interpol had not replied to questions as of last night.

Surrogacy laws in Thailand are not strictly regulated, making the Southeast Asian nation a popular destination for foreigners seeking such services.

Shigeta - who through a lawyer denied allegations of human-trafficking - visited Thailand more than 65 times since 2012.

Shigeta's case has dominated headlines across Asia as it comes shortly after reports about an Australian couple accused of abandoning their baby with a Thai surrogate mother after realising the child had Down's syndrome.