A wealthy Japanese man who fathered dozens of babies with surrogates is now fighting to gain custody in Thai court in what has now become known as the “baby factory” case.
In 2014, Mitsutoki Shigeta, 28, reportedly hired several Thai women to bear his children so he can allegedly “have them inherit his family fortune someday.”
Known as a son of a multi-billionaire telecommunications tycoon, Shigeta testified about the case of his unusual surrogacy project in Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court from his home in Japan via a video conference on Tuesday.
This is Shigeta Mitsutoki, age 24 and through surrogacy, he now has 16 children..yes, you read correctly, 16 kids.. pic.twitter.com/zWWqgEHcc9
— Furious Nurse (@Furiousnurse) August 25, 2014
According to his lawyer, Shigeta was hoping that his numerous children would eventually inherit their fortune, reports South China Morning Post. The attorney noted that the high-profile case is scheduled for a ruling on Feb. 20. In the meantime, the babies are currently under the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
A young Thai woman told the Associated Press in 2014 that she became one of the surrogates after responding to an online ad offering $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but could not conceive. It turned out that there was no couple and it was Shigeta who placed the ad.
When news first emerged of his surrogacy project that year, he was initially investigated for human trafficking and child exploitation, but authorities found no evidence of either. He soon left Bangkok after police raided his condominium and discovered nine babies living with nine nannies.
— LPJ_Tokyo (@LPJ_Tokyo) August 20, 2014
In January 2015, the Japanese man and some of the Thai surrogate women he hired initiated a lawsuit against the ministry for allegedly violating their rights. While it was not specified how many children he actually had, Thai police noted that he fathered at least 15 based on the DNA test results.
Many believe that Shigeta may have fathered even more children in other countries where there are lenient laws on surrogacy. He also allegedly traveled to India and Ukraine back in 2014 to have children.
Thailand’s Social Development and Human Security Ministry personnel who testified reportedly visited Cambodia and Japan to check where he intends to have his children raised. One of them noted in court on Tuesday that “everything looks good.”
Before lawmakers changed the law to ban commercial surrogacy in 2015, it was not strictly regulated in Thailand and many foreigners sought such service in the country. Under the new provisions, only couples with at least one Thai partner are allowed to partake in surrogacy.
A Thai surrogate must be a local citizen over the age of 25 and have given birth before. She also cannot receive any direct fees for being a surrogate.