PERTH, Australia -- Australian authorities were Wednesday investigating the father at the centre of a Thai surrogate baby scandal who was exposed as a convicted paedophile, to determine whether his young daughter is at risk.
The man, from Bunbury south of Perth, sparked global controversy for apparently abandoning his Down's syndrome baby boy, Gammy, in Thailand and taking only his healthy twin sister back home, although he and his wife dispute the circumstances.
In another twist to a story that has generated fierce debate on the moral and legal grounding of international surrogacy, reports emerged Tuesday that the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has convictions for child sex offences.
Australian media widely reported that the 56-year-old electrician was convicted for sexually molesting three girls.
State broadcaster ABC said he was jailed for three years for molesting two girls under the age of 10 when he was in his twenties. He was also accused in 1997 of another six charges of indecently dealing with a child and reportedly imprisoned for 18 months.
Authorities in Western Australia said they attempted to contact the couple at their home on Tuesday but with a media scrum gathered outside, no one answered the door.
Darren O'Malley, spokesman for the Western Australia Department for Child Protection, confirmed to AFP that an investigation had been launched and said another attempt to speak with the parents would be made Wednesday.
"A full investigation is being conducted into the safety and welfare of the child involved," he said.
"We will talk to the people concerned and information will also be gathered from the police and other family members."
O'Malley said that if they could not track down the man and his wife then "we would enlist the services of the police to locate the persons of interest".
"We have the powers to remove children when there is significant and immediate concern over their welfare," he added.
"On the other hand, we could find that there is no need for other action."