A Bangkok court has granted a wealthy Japanese man “sole parent” rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers.
The decision allows 28-year-old Mitsutoki Shigeta to apply for custody of the children. The surrogates have signed away their parental rights.
Mr Shigeta was at the centre of the 2014 “baby factory” scandal that emerged when police discovered nine babies and a pregnant surrogate mother in a Bangkok apartment.
DNA tests proved Mr Shigeta was the biological father of the children, who were being cared for by nine nannies.
Police later said they found more babies they suspected of being fathered by the Japanese businessman.
Four of the children had been taken to Cambodia, prompting Interpol to investigate Mr Shigeta for human trafficking.
The founder of the New Life clinic, a fertility centre that provided Mr Shigeta with two surrogate mothers, told AP she warned Interpol about him before the first baby was born in June 2013.
“As soon as they got pregnant, he requested more. He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he’s dead,” Mariam Kukunashvili told the agency in 2014.
He told the head of the clinic he wanted to win elections and thought having children would increase the number of votes he received, she said.
Mr Shigeta argued through a lawyer he simply wanted a large family and sued the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for custody of the children.
On Tuesday, Mr Shigeta, who did not attend the trial in person, was deemed the children’s “sole parent”.
The court said the 28-year-old, who is reportedly the son of a billionaire businessman, had enough money to look after the children in Japan.
“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,” said Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court in a statement.