Mitsutoki Shigeta, the heir of a wealthy Japanese businessman, was recently awarded sole custody of 13 children he fathered through surrogate mothers in Thailand. Dubbed the “baby factory dad”, 28-year-old Shigeta is believed to be the father of at least 17 children, all conceived through surrogacy.
The “baby factory” scandal began in 2014, when Thai authorities stormed the Bangkok apartment of Japanese millionaire Mitsutoki Shigeta, where they found nine surrogate babies, each accompanied by a nanny, living in mostly unfurnished rooms and surrounded by playpens and baby bottles. DNA tests showed that Shigeta was the father of all nine children, as well as four others not living in the apartment. They had all been delivered by surrogate mothers that the Japanese national had paid between $9,300 and $12,500 each.
Shigeta, who left Thailand shortly after the raid, raised suspicions of human trafficking at the Thai clinic he used to find surrogate mothers. In 2014, Mariam Kukunashvili, founder of the New Life clinic, told the Associated Press that the young Japanese businessman kept submitting requests for new mothers soon after others became pregnant. She claims to have warned the Interpol about it in 2013, but Interpol says they never received her messages.
“He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he’s dead,” Kukunashvili, adding that Shigeta also inquired about equipment to preserve sperm in old age.
Kukunashvili said Shigeta also told her that he wanted to run in an election and win by using his big family for voting.
Photo: Thai Immigration Bureau
Son of billionaire businessman Yasumitsu Shigeta, Mitsutoki never appeared in court during the long trial regarding his motives for having so many surrogate children. However, his lawyers claimed that he “was born in a big family and wanted the children to grow up together”. They produced evidence that Shigeta had the financial means to raise the 13 Thai children, a spacious home near a park in Tokyo and even a plan to care for them. In light of this evidence, and after all the surrogate mothers gave up their parental rights, Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court awarded Mitsutoki Shigeta sole custody of the kids.
“For the happiness and opportunities the 13 children will receive from their biological father — who does not have a history of bad behavior — the court rules them to be the plaintiff’s legal children,” the court said in a statement.
The 13 Thai children, who had been placed under the care of the Thai state while Interpol investigated whether the “baby factory” case was one of human trafficking, will go to live with their biological father when they are ready. Having been under shelter care for so long, they may need shelter staff to stay with them for a while to avoid abrupt changes, one of Shigeta’s lawyers told reporters.
Interestingly, before this week’s ruling, Mitsutoki Shigeta had also won custody of four other children born via surrogacy in Thailand. They were raised in Japan and Cambodia, and were reportedly well taken care of.
Apart from being the son of a Japanese billionaire, not much is known about Mitsutoki Shigeta. After Thai authorities revealed him as the father of the nine children found during the 2014 raid, his lawyers pressured Japanese media with demands to not publish his name or names of his family members, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. The young Shigeta has been described by the AP as litigious in protecting his identity, and there are only a few public photos of him circulating online. One of them shows him at an airport customs office leaving the country with documents in one hand and a baby in the other.