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Thailand

Japanese ‘baby factory’ dad, who may have fathered dozens with surrogates, lays claim to his offspring in Thai court

Billionaire’s son Mitsutoki Shigeta, who was living in Hong Kong when news of his unusual surrogacy project broke, says he wanted to have dozens of babies to inherit his family fortune

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 8:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 8:49am

A Japanese man who fathered at least 15 babies using Thai surrogate mothers appeared in a Thai court via video conference Tuesday, testifying in a case in which he is suing for paternal rights.

Mitsutoki Shigeta’s lawyer said that Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court, where the “baby factory” case that has drawn wide attention is being heard, will issue its ruling on February 20.

Shigeta, the reputed son of a billionaire, was living in Hong Kong when news of his unusual surrogacy project broke in 2014.

The 28-year-old man, currently living in Japan from where he testified, reportedly hired many Thai women to bear his children in 2014.

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The babies are being cared for under the watch of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security until the case reaches its conclusion.

It is not clear how many there are, with some reports saying dozens. Thai police say DNA tests have confirmed he fathered at least 15.

The lawyer said his client wanted to have dozens of babies because he desired a large family and hoped they would inherit his family fortune.

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Shigeta, who is believed to be the son of the multibillionaire owner of one of Japan’s biggest telecommunications companies, may have fathered more children in other countries around the world where the laws on surrogacy are not strict.

In 2014, reports emerged that he had also travelled to India and Ukraine to have children.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Thailand’s Social Development and Human Security Ministry personnel took turns testifying in court.

One of them said they went to Cambodia and Japan to visit places where the man intends to have his kids raised and “everything looks good.”

According to local media, the Japanese man and some Thai surrogate women initiated a lawsuit against the ministry in January 2015, alleging that it violated their rights.

Previously, surrogacy was not strictly regulated in Thailand, and many foreigners turned to it for surrogates, drawn by both the relatively cheap cost and high-quality health care available in the country.

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But it became a hot issue in Thailand following a string of scandals, including the one involving the Japanese man and another involving an Australian couple who abandoned a surrogate-born baby with Down’s syndrome and just took home his healthy twin sister.

In 2015, the law was changed to ban commercial surrogacy.

Now only couples with at least one Thai partner can access the country’s surrogacy services and, in the case of marriages between people of mixed nationalities, they must have been legally married for at least three years.

The surrogate mother must be a Thai citizen over the age of 25 who is preferably a blood relative but is neither a parent nor a daughter of the couple. She must have given birth before and she cannot receive any direct fees for being a surrogate.