A wealthy Japanese man at the centre of a "baby factory" scandal in Thailand has won sole parental rights to 13 children he fathered through Thai surrogate mothers.
The Central Juvenile and Family Court awarded Shigeta sole custody of the children after taking into account the fact that he was their biological father and in a sufficiently good financial position to take care of them all. They were subsequently cared for by the Thai state, while another four infants were deemed also to have been fathered by the same man.
The infamous case had also thrown light on Thailand's then-unregulated surrogacy trade, pushing authorities to bar foreigners from hiring Thai surrogates in 2015, The Star reported.
The court ruling said Shigeta had a right to custody because the children were born before the new law, and because the surrogate mothers waived their custody rights.
But his lawyer insisted he simply wanted a very large family, and that as the son of a wealthy Japanese entrepreneur he was able to look after them properly.
The court also found that the man, who currently lives in Japan, plans to bring all his children - now around 4 years old - to his home country where it says he plans to enroll them in an global school and open bank accounts for them.
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"The next step for us is to contact the Social Development and Human Security Ministry to take over the care of the children", Shigeta's lawyer Kong Suriyamontol said, after hearing the verdict. Police at the time said that Shigeta paid the surrogates between $9,300 and 12,500 each to carry his children.
Thai media says Mr Shigeta is unmarried, owns several companies himself and has already made plans for the future of his children, including setting up trust funds for them.
It said there is no evidence he was involved in human trafficking, and that the man has professional stability and an ample income to raise all the children in Japan.
The man appeared in court via video conference earlier this month to testify in the case, which has drawn widespread attention in Thailand.
On one occasion, a Thai surrogate mother accused an Australian couple of leaving behind one of their twin babies "Gammy" after discovering he had been born with Down syndrome.