A Japanese man who became embroiled in a "baby factory" scandal four years ago has been granted sole custody of 13 children he fathered with Thai surrogate mothers.
The Bangkok Central Juvenile and Family Court made a decision to return the children to Shigeta as the sole parent, "ruling that he is financially stable and had showed his plans to care for them", according to the Washington Post.
Multimillionaire Mitsutoki Shigeta, 27, caused an global incident in 2014 when Thai police found nine of his biological kids living with nannies in a plush Bangkok apartment. It soon emerged that Shigeta had fathered 19 children in total, with 13 babies born to surrogate mothers living in Thailand, and six living in Cambodia and Japan.
The case threw a spotlight on Thailand's notorious rent-a-womb industry, and led to a blanket ban on foreigners paying for Thai surrogates.
Shigeta won custody of the other four children born via surrogacy in Thailand before this week's ruling. Now he is only referred to in the Japanese-language media as an anonymous 28-year-old man.
Reuters reports that after it was established Mitsutoki had no links to human trafficking, the court ruled for custody in his favour mainly due to his financial situation.
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The court's statement did little to lift the veil of mystery over Shigeta, who had minimal contact with the surrogates.
Japanese media have reported that Shigeta is the son of an IT billionaire. Cambodia inherited much of the surrogacy-for-hire business for foreigners after Thailand banned it, but later passed its own law against it.
Several Japanese magazines and online publications nonetheless identified him as a son of Japanese tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, founder and chief executive officer of the Japanese communications and technology company Hikari Tsushin.
Shigeta, who allegedly wanted to start a "big family", has been providing the children English and Japanese tuition while they've been in government care these past few years. His lawyer said his client wanted to have dozens of babies because he hoped for a large family and believed they could inherit his wealth, Kyodo News reported.
Court documents revealed that he had hired nine women to give birth to his children in 2013. Thai officials took the children into care in 2014 after the exposure of an extensive commercial surrogacy business.
"I've never seen a case like this", the Thailand director of Interpol said about what the country dubbed the "baby factory", after tips led the worldwide policing group to investigate amid concerns of human trafficking.