Interpol seeks clues to 'baby factory'
Bangkok - Interpol announced on Friday that it had launched a multinational investigation into what Thailand dubbed the "baby factory" case: a 24-year-old Japanese businessman who has 16 surrogate babies and an alleged desire to father hundreds more.
Police raided a Bangkok condominium earlier this month and found nine babies and nine nannies living in a few unfurnished rooms filled with baby bottles, bouncy chairs, play pens and diapers. They have since identified Mitsutoki Shigeta as the father of those babies — and seven others.
"What I can tell you so far is that I've never seen a case like this," said Thailand's Interpol director, Apichart Suribunya.
"We are trying to understand what kind of person makes this many babies."
Apichart said that regional Interpol offices in Japan, Cambodia, Hong Kong and India had been asked to probe Shigeta's background.
Police said he appeared to have registered businesses or apartments in those countries and has frequently travelled there.
"We are looking into two motives. One is human trafficking and the other is exploitation of children," said Thai police's Kokiat Wongvorachart, Thailand's lead investigator in the case.
He said Shigeta made 41 trips to Thailand since 2010. On many occasions he traveled to nearby Cambodia, where he brought four of his babies.
Shigeta has not been charged with any crime. He is trying to get his children back — the 12 in Thailand are being cared for by social services — and he has proven through DNA samples sent from Japan that he is their biological father.
He quickly left Thailand after the 5 August raid on the flat and has said through a lawyer that he simply wanted a large family and has the means to support it.
Kokiat said Shigeta hired 11 Thai surrogate mothers to carry his children, including four sets of twins.
The founder of a multinational fertility clinic that provided Shigeta with two surrogate mothers said she warned Interpol about him even before the first baby was born in June 2013.
Shigeta's activities drew no attention until early this month, when an Australian couple was accused of abandoning a baby with his Thai surrogate mother — but taking his twin sister — after learning the boy had Down syndrome. Though the couple disputes the allegation, the case prompted a crackdown by Thai authorities on what had been a largely unregulated industry.