Mitsutoki Shigeta: ‘Baby factory’ dad wins paternity rights

A Bangkok court has awarded paternity rights to a Japanese man over 13 babies he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers.

The ruling allows Mitsutoki Shigeta, 28, to pursue custody of the children.

The son of a wealthy entrepreneur, he caused controversy in 2014 when he was revealed to have fathered 16 babies via surrogates in Thailand.

His so-called "baby factory" case and others led to Thailand banning commercial surrogacy for foreigners.

Mr Shigeta, who was not present at the trial, was awarded "sole parent" rights after the Thai surrogates forfeited their rights, according to the court.

"For the happiness and opportunities which the 13 children will receive from their biological father, who does not have a history of bad behaviour, the court rules that all 13 born from surrogacy to be legal children of the plaintiff," Bangkok's Central Juvenile Court said in a statement without naming him.

In 2014, Mr Shigeta was investigated by Interpol for human trafficking after it emerged he had fathered 16 surrogate children in Thailand.

His Bangkok apartment was raided and police found nine surrogate babies, nannies and a pregnant surrogate mother there.

He left Thailand soon after, but later sued the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for custody of the children.

At the time, there was strong concern over his motives for wanting so many babies, including allegations of human trafficking and exploitation of children. But his lawyer said his motives were only that he wanted a big family.

In 2015 he was awarded custody of the three other children.

It was this case and that of "Baby Gammy" that shed light on Thailand's booming surrogacy industry.

Baby Gammy's Thai surrogate mother alleged that he was abandoned by his Australian parents after they found out he had Down's Syndrome.

An Australian court later cleared the family of abandonment.

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