THAILAND’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) have reportedly found three young children believed to have been fathered by Japanese businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta, who has been embroiled in a surrogacy scandal since 2014.
According to the Bangkok Post, the DSI spoke of the three children during a meeting of the National Legislative Assembly’s (NLA) special committee, who are now studying ways to protect children born via medical fertility technology, then left by their surrogate parents.
The mothers of the three children are thought to be Thai women hired by Shigeta as surrogates, taken to Cambodia and left there with caregivers. Officials have not yet met the children in person, said Methini Ratrasan, director of the DSI’s Bureau of Technology and Information Inspection Centre.
Shigeta, who has been identified by Japanese media as the son of billionaire Yasumitsu Shigeta, was investigated by Interpol in August 2014 for suspected human trafficking after it was revealed he had fathered at least 16 babies with surrogate mothers in Thailand.
A representative for the Social Development and Human Security Ministry present at the meeting on Thursday said the 13 of the 16 surrogate children have been cared for by the ministry’s child protection services center in the Nonthaburi province since the scandal came to light.
Police say Shigeta spent over US$500,000 fathering all his children with at least 10 women for motives that are still unclear. Conflicting reports offer different explanations for why he wanted so many children.
Shigeta reportedly said through a lawyer that he simply wanted a big family, according to a 2015 Associated Press report.
A fertility services clinic that he used to find surrogate mothers, New Life, said Shigeta planned to have up to 15 babies a year and use his large family to help him “win elections”, and intended to keep making babies “until he’s dead”.
Allegations of human trafficking and exploitation for the stem cell trade have been unfounded, as Thai police so there is no evidence for either, said Ratrasan.
In January 2015, he was awarded custody of three of the children he fathered by the Central Juvenile and Family Court after six surrogate mothers filed a lawsuit against the Social Development and Human Security Ministry for violating both their and Shigeta’s rights by removing their children, reported the Chiangrai Times.
He has petitioned for paternal rights over the remaining 13 children and four court hearings have been held, with the next hearing scheduled next week.
Last year, Thailand passed a law banning commercial surrogacy for foreign parents in a crackdown on cheap surrogacy services. Violation of the law is punishable by up to 10 years in prison of a 200,000 baht (US$6,200) fine.