SURROGATE UPDATE (Thurs): Warnings issued a year ago

Latest (Thursday): A fertility centre founder made repeated warnings to Interpol and media outlets a year ago over the never-ending demand for more surrogate mothers from the Japanese man at the centre of a human trafficking probe, but they went unheeded.

The scanned page of Shigeta Mitsutoki's passport as acquired upon his departure for Macau early Thursday last week.

Thursday morning update

Note: Audio follows text

Interpol 'warned' of serial surrogacy

Dane Halpin

The founder of a multinational fertility centre says she warned Interpol and global media outlets last year about the Japanese man at the centre of a human trafficking probe, after learning he wanted to father dozens of children to surrogate mothers every year.

Mariam Kukunashvili, co-founder of New Life Global Network, admitted to providing two surrogate mothers at the same time to Mitsutoki Shigeta last year, but said suspicions about the then-22-year-old’s motives arose soon after.

“We served Shigeta one time only and then he demanded he wanted more and more babies,” she said.

“I immediately found it suspicious, especially for a man of his age, and we refused to further serve him and warned Interpol, the BBC, CNN, and the Japanese embassy.”

One of the surrogate mothers provided by New Life's Thailand branch gave birth to twins, while the other had a single child. Ms Kukunashvili said she learned while the women were pregnant that Mr Shigeta had commissioned another three surrogate mothers from a separate agency.

Birth certificates have been found indicating the Japanese businessman has fathered 15 babies to surrogate mothers in Thailand. Nine of the children were discovered during a raid on a condominium in Lat Phrao last week. At least three others have already been taken out of the country.

Police are still investigating whether the children were part of a human-trafficking scheme.

Documents obtained by the Bangkok Post appear to confirm that Ms Kukunashvili contacted Interpol on Aug 3 last year, warning that “something is very wrong here”.

“He freezes sperm very frequently and says he is going to have 10 babies per year and wants to make sure he has sufficient frozen sperm [as he is going to make babies even when he is old],” Ms Kukunashvili wrote.

“In spite of the fact he is already expecting six babies, he again requests from us to make more and more babies and to provide him with more and more surrogate mothers."

She said no response had been received from Interpol.

Ms Kukunashvili said New Life Thailand had acted only as an intermediary in the surrogacy arrangement with Mr Shigeta, while the actual IVF procedures were performed by Pisit Tantiwattanakul, director of the All IVF Center in Bangkok.

“I phoned Dr Pisit and informed him that [Mr Shigeta’s request] was suspicious, but he did not listen and continued serving Shigeta himself,” she said.

The All IVF Center was shut down last week after an investigation by the Medical Council of Thailand linked it to the Japanese businessman's case.

Commercial surrogacy is a breach of the council's ethical guidelines.

Dr Pisit has been unavailable for comment for the past week and efforts by the Bangkok Post to contact him yesterday went unanswered.

Although stressing she had never met Mr Shigeta in person, Ms Kukunashvili suggested her staff had painted him as a man showing possible signs of mental imbalance.

When questioned about his motives for fathering so many children, she said Mr Shigeta’s initial response was "so that he could have a big family for voting … [and] win an election in Japan”.

She said she also learned Mr Shigeta wanted to buy equipment to freeze his sperm at home, but Dr Pisit rejected the request due to the dangers of storing liquid nitrogen.

Ms Kukunashvili said her staff had been shown three separate passports which belong to Mr Shigeta — Japanese, Chinese and Cambodian.

Mr Shigeta fled Thailand on a flight to Macau. He is thought to be a resident of Hong Kong where he reportedly owns a luxury apartment and has minor business interests. His father is believed to be an influential businessman in Japan.

Wednesday morning update

DNA tests have proven nine babies found at a condominium in Bangkok last week have the same father, but authorities have yet to prove a Japanese businessman is that father, senior Thai police doctor Jongjate Aojanepong said Tuesday.

He said at a press conference that according to birth certificates found by investigators, the businessman has been named as the father of 15 babies.

Nine of the 15 are now under guardianship at Pakkred Babies' Home in Pak Kret district of Nonthaburi and four children were discovered leaving Thailand for Cambodia, immigration officials said.

A set of twins is receiving treatment at a hospital in Bangkok. Police plan to test the DNA of the twins when they recover from an unspecified illness.

The veteran police physician said it appeared the children were conceived from eggs from "various races" of women. The doctor said it has not been determined if the children were part of a human-trafficking scheme.

Mitsutoki Shigeta, the man believed to have fathered the 13 surrogate children, left on a flight to Macau last week. He was accompanied by a Japanese woman also sought by police, Yuka Unno, 27.

Sunday update

In brief: It is now believed that the 24-year-old Japanese man has fathered 13 surrogate babies, not nine as previously thought. Several have already been taken out of the country. A Japanese woman may also have been involved in the operation and she, too, has fled the country.

Here are the latest details from Bangkok Post reporter Apinya Wipatayotin:

A Japanese woman linked to a potential human trafficking case involving 13 surrogate babies has fled the country, a police source confirmed on Saturday.

Security camera footage from the Suvarnabhumi airport immigration office showed the Japanese woman accompanying Mitsutoki Shigeta, the man believed to have fathered the 13 surrogate children, as he left on a flight to Macau on Thursday, the source said. She was identified as Yuka Unno, 27.

Officers at immigration headquarters are verifying the images and re-checking the identity of both suspects, the source added.

Mr Shigeta, a 24-year-old Japanese national, fled the country after a police raid on his rented condominium at The Niche ID Lat Phrao on Tuesday uncovered nine surrogate babies and a pregnant woman.

The children were sent to Pakkred Babies’ Home in Pak Kret district of Nonthaburi, while the pregnant woman was held as a witness.

Ms Unno is believed to have been staying in the same apartment and is wanted by police for questioning.

Ratthaprathan Tulathorn, a lawyer for Mr Shigeta, said on Tuesday his client had fathered the babies and all would be taken care of.

It was also revealed three other surrogate children had been taken out of Thailand by Mr Shigeta, whose name reportedly appeared on their birth certificates. Police believe Ms Unno may have helped him get the babies out of the country.

PREVIOUS UPDATE

Japanese 'father' abandons surrogate babies

A 24-year-old Japanese man claimed to be the father of nine surrogate babies discovered in Bangkok, Shigeta Mitsutoki, fled Thailand early Thursday morning passing through immigration at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport about 1am and boarding a flight bound for Macau.

The Japanese man had visited Thailand 65 times since 2012.

Police had tried to reach him to verify the claim that he is the biological father of nine surrogate babies,  aged from two weeks to two years, found at rented rooms at a Lat Phrao condominium.

Police wanted DNA tests to verify the claim of fatherhood made by the man's Thai lawyer as the babies looked very different.

Read full story here

Nine babies born to surrogate mothers in Bangkok have been taken to a state-run nursing home in Nonthaburi’s Pak Kret district along with their nannies (pictured, right) while police launch an investigation into the surrogacy scandal. A Japanese man reportedly rented rooms in The Niche ID Lat Phrao condominium in Soi Lat Phrao 130 in Bang Kapi district and hired women to take care of the babies. (Photos by Thanarak Khunton)

MEDICAL TOURISM

Nine babies found in Bangkok 'surrogate condo'

Japanese man claims to be biological father
7 Aug 2014
Paritta Wangkiat and Lamphai Intathep

DNA testing will be conducted to establish the relationships of nine babies from surrogate mothers and a Japanese businessman who claims to be their biological father as a fresh surrogacy scandal emerged in Thailand.

Anti-human trafficking suppression police have stepped in to investigate the Japanese surrogacy case which came to light on Tuesday when nine surrogate babies were found in a city condo.

Pol Gen Aek Angsananont, deputy national police chief, said the DNA testing is a crucial part of the police investigation into the latest surrogacy case which is likely to be more complicated than the baby Gammy affair.

The new case, which has raised questions over the relative ease with which foreigners can come to Thailand to have surrogate babies, was exposed on Tuesday when authorities, acting on a tip-off, found nine babies, six boys and three girls, aged from two weeks to two years, in rented rooms at The Niche ID Lat Phrao condominium in soi Lat Phrao 130 in Bang Kapi district.

The authorities also found seven nannies and a 20-year-old pregnant woman. All nine babies, as well as the one being carried by the pregnant woman, are claimed to be surrogates.

The babies have been taken to a state-run nursing home in Nonthaburi's Pak Kret district.

Shortly after the search, lawyer Ratthaprathan Tulathorn contacted police and claimed he is representing a Japanese man. He said his client is the father of all the surrogate babies.

The surrogacy arrangements were legal and no women were forced to carry a child.

Mr Ratthaprathan provided information about the father, but claimed he had no details about the biological mothers, police said.

They declined to name the Japanese man.

Pol Gen Aek said Wednesday that police have questioned all the nannies as well as the pregnant woman and are asking the Japanese embassy to assist them in contacting the man for questioning.

"If the Japanese man turns out to be the father of the babies, the question is why he wants so many babies," he said.

More details of the investigation, which is headed by Pol Maj Gen Chayut Thanathaweesap, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, are expected in a week, he said.

If the case is established to involve commercial surrogacy, police will look for the surrogacy service clinics and doctors who performed the procedures.

Yanee Lertkrai, director-general of the Department of Social Development and Welfare, said the surrogate babies were receiving good care at the Pakkred Babies' Home in Nonthaburi province.

Their nannies, who had been hired for 10,000 baht a month to take care of the surrogate babies, were released.

Ms Yanee said the surrogate mother found during the raid was seven months pregnant, and was brought to a safe place to serve as a witness.

"The surrogate mother says she was hired to serve as the surrogate for 300,000 baht if she could give birth to one child, and 400,000 baht for two. She needs money to pay for her car installments," he said.

Ms Yanee quoted the surrogate mother as saying a friend persuaded her to enter the venture. Her friend hoped to be a surrogate but failed to get pregnant after a fertilised egg was implanted.

Meanwhile, the ministry will take care of the children under the Child Protection Act, which allows it to step in until families or guardians are found. Health checks and DNA tests will be provided to all children.

"The babies all look different and it is hard to believe they share the same blood. Personally, I think the surrogacy of the babies is illegal," she said.

Meanwhile, Pol Col Chitpob Tomuan, superintendent of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division, said Lat Phrao police are in charge of the investigation but the division will also join in.

He said legal action will be taken against the people concerned if the scandal involves human trafficking.

Based on the information at hand, he said the case is being treated as a violation of a law governing sanatorium licences and the Medical Council's regulations on assisted reproduction technology services.

The division will also take part in the investigation into the baby Gammy case. It will ask for information from the Medical Council which is investigating the issue.

Wallop Tungkananurak, secretary-general of the Creation Foundation for Children, said the human rights of Gammy and the nine babies were violated because surrogacy is permitted only if blood relatives of the couple are the surrogates, under the Medical Council of Thailand's code of conduct.

"In case of the surrogate baby Gammy, his rights were violated before he had opened his eyes to the world as he was born illegally.

"After he was born, his rights were further violated as his parents refused to take care of him."

Vichien Chavalit, permanent-secretary for the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, said a surrogacy bill was needed to prevent commercial surrogacy.

A bill likely to go before the legislative assembly would make it illegal to turn a profit from surrogacy.

The would-be parents must be married under Thai law, and the surrogate mother would have to have carried a pregnancy before.

A Japanese man reportedly rented rooms in The Niche ID condominium in Soi Lat Phrao 130 in Bangkok's Bang Kapi district and hired women to take care of nine surrogate babies aged 1-6 months.

Related search: surrogacy, Thailand, surrogate mothers, Mitsutoki Shigeta

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