In 2012, a young Japanese man, long hair and glasses of a wise student, Mitsutoki Shigeta, contacted New Life Global Network, an international surrogacy agency (surrogacy) based in Georgia. Accustomed to mature couples in need of children, director Mariam Kukunashvili is surprised by the candidate’s age – 22 years – and even more by his unusual request: to carry out two surrogates simultaneously with of them surrogate mothers.
Mariam agrees to recruit two Thai women who will be followed in a specialized clinic in Bangkok, All IVF. The two pregnancies go smoothly and result in three births. When the happy father contacts her again, and asks her to be organized in the wake of several other surrogates in Thailand, Mariam begins to wonder. In the meantime, she has learned from medical staff in Bangkok that young Shigeta makes no secret of his desire to give birth to many babies.
One hundred, even a thousand, at the rate of “ten or fifteen each year, until his death”, since he wants to freeze his sperm in order to be able to continue to procreate even when he is old enough and he wants to buy the equipment needed to store the semen straws at home. And when we are surprised, he does not hesitate to declare: “But this is the best gift I can give to the world!”
Alarmed, Mariam Kukunashvili tries to calm the enthusiast, in vain. She ends up alerting the boss of the Bangkok clinic. This is without taking into account the singular power of persuasion of the young man and, above all, that of his wallet. Her father is telecoms tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, who was the 5e global fortune until the dot-coms debacle (the internet bubble).
Since then it has only ranked 11e rank of the fortunes of the archipelago, with assets still estimated at 2 billion euros. His son owns 34 million euros and companies in most countries in the region. A fortune well enough for the chief doctor to throw away all precautions and all measures, and provide his insatiable client with the means to carry out his delusional project: to generate a host of children. How much exactly? Fifteen? Twenty? Moreover ? To date, the investigation has not yet succeeded in determining this.
A crazy project
Despite his explosive project, the serial progenitor could have quietly continued to produce descendants by the dozen in the little world of Thai surrogacy if it had not been shaken, not long ago, by a first scandal. On July 31, in Bangkok, an angry surrogate reveals to the press that the Australian couple for whom she gave birth to twins left with one of the babies, abandoning her little brother, who has Down’s syndrome, on the spot.
Shock across the Far East, and even more so in Thailand, where public opinion is sky-high when it finds out what is happening in hospitals and clinics which have so far enjoyed an extremely positive image. Thanks to a total absence of legislation, they have become unscrupulous providers of medical tourism for reproductive purposes.
But it is the almost concomitant revelation of young Shigeta’s demented project that will start the storm. On August 5, on the instructions of an informant, the police raided an ultramodern building, The Niche, a luxurious residence with elegant architecture in the north of the capital.
A gynoeceum led by a transexual
In several rooms filled with toys but with spartan furnishings, they find nine babies aged 2 weeks to 2 years, nine nannies as well as a young woman seven months pregnant. At the head of this gynaeceum, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, Yuko Unno, manages the affairs on behalf of the rich heir. It is not known if he and her are a couple. We know, according to reliable sources, that the Japanese would be a transsexual. The two are also known to be together when they rush out of the country, possibly taking a child.
Mitsutoki Shigeta. (Chiangrai Times)
The babies of The Niche will be transferred to the neighborhood orphanage until their identity is clarified. Since then, the Japanese have only spoken through their lawyers and no one knows where they have found refuge. It is true that he is spoiled for choice: he has three passports, one Japanese, one Cambodian and one Hong Kong.
7,200 euros for a child, 9,500 for twins
Left behind, the mothers who carried the nine babies before they were each entrusted to a nanny are found. They all tell the same story. They were approached by an agency which offered them each 7,200 euros – 9,500 for twins – plus a monthly allowance of 450 euros to carry the embryo of sterile strangers, “a good deed that will generate good karma”. Considerable sums in the eyes of these women from deprived regions of the North.
As for the sponsor, Pat, one of the surrogates, 21, describes him as “an ordinary guy” whom she met twice during her pregnancy and who attended the delivery without ever speaking to her. None of the young women contacted knew that she was actually helping to populate the personal “baby farm” of this taciturn Japanese man.
This one, during all the month, does not cease growing in a dizzying way. Quickly, we find two other babies treated in a hospital. Then we learn that four others were taken by Shigeta and Yuko to Cambodia during two separate trips. That’s already fifteen little ones. A sixteenth, we learn, entered the country from India with a Japanese passport, and when investigators discover that the very cosmopolitan Japanese has crossed the border between Thailand and Cambodia sixty-two times since 2012, we expects to find many more.
Interpol opens an investigation
Interpol finally decides to open an investigation in all the countries where the millionaire has an interest. In India, we find the trace of three other children and perhaps also the sources of the case. We suppose today, it is in this country that Shigeta, when he was barely over 20 years old, started his big project. India was then a paradise for anyone looking for surrogate mothers, in any setting. It was only because of the measures taken in 2012 by New Delhi to put an end to the abuses and to reserve these services only to married couples that the market turned to Thailand, to the advantageous legal madman.
Faced with this succession of mind-blowing twists and turns, the Thai police initially believed in a vast traffic of children. The lawyer of the accused person disputes this:
My client is ready to show investigators his children who live outside Thailand where they are treated extremely well, the latter said. If these babies were for sale, then why did their father open accounts and put assets in their name? “
The latter, according to a letter given to the police, would claim to be driven only by the desire to have heirs to whom he could later transmit the fortune of his family. And the results of a DNA test, which fell on August 20, may prove him right. They confirm that all the babies in Thailand have the same genes as a sample provided by Shigeta. Suddenly, the lawyer began to demand that the ten children retained by the authorities as well as the unborn child be returned to their parent. And how to prevent this?
Women of 8 nationalities
In the eyes of Thai law, DNA testing is sufficient to prove paternity. But how many children would this concern? By peeling through the lease of the apartment, Thai investigators have just discovered the existence of twenty-one other babies, all born in Bangkok, and registered at this address between November 2013 and June 2014.
To date, this would therefore bring the (perhaps provisional) total of the Shigeta siblings to over thirty-five, while still adding confusion to the confusion: birth records revealed that these twenty-one cubs are from eggs from women of eight different nationalities: nine Spanish, three Israeli, two Swedish, two Brazilian, two Australian, one American, one Chinese and one Malaysian!
In Bangkok, public opinion, stunned by these bursts of revelations, is asking questions: how doctors belonging to the elite of the profession have been able to lend themselves to such abuses? The All IVF clinic (as well as the clinic associated with Mariam Kukunashvili’s agency) has been closed. Its director will have plenty of time to shed light on the motivations of its staff. He is due to report to the police in the next few days.
In Tokyo, the embarrassment is no less. Even the stock market has suffered. The unboxing of the strange plans of the cursed heir caused the share of the family business to fall by more than 11%. But the family is united.
The Shigeta are threatening to crack down on anyone who dares to involve them in “unproven” facts. Suddenly, the Japanese press is walking on eggshells. In Bangkok, the correspondents who throng among the clusters of journalists who have come to cover the affair do not even dare to pronounce their name.