U.S. Customs says forced labour used at Malaysia's Top Glove, to seize gloves

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Customs has found forced labour practices in Top Glove Corp Bhd's (TPGC.KL) production of disposable gloves and directed its ports to seize goods from the manufacturer, it said on Monday.

In a statement overnight, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it has sufficient information to determine labour abuses at the world's largest medical glove maker.

CBP issued an order in July last year that barred imports from two of Top Glove's subsidiaries on suspicion of labour abuses.

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The ban now extends "to all disposable gloves originating in Top Glove factories in Malaysia," it told Reuters.

Top Glove shares fell nearly 5% at one point in Tuesday trading.

Top Glove said in a Tuesday bourse filing its U.S. counsels are liaising with representatives from the CBP to obtain more clarity and information on the matter.

"The company, at this juncture, is unable to ascertain the ... financial and operational impacts arising from the above," it said.

CBP said its finding does not impact the vast majority of disposable gloves imported into the United States which are critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"CBP has taken steps to ensure that this targeted enforcement action against Top Glove will not have a significant impact on total U.S. imports of disposable gloves," John Leonard, CBP Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner for Trade said in the statement.

Top Glove has said in the past months that it has taken extensive rectification actions to improve its labour practices.

Ethical trade consultancy Impactt, appointed by Top Glove to assess its trade and labour practices, reported earlier this month that as at January, it "no longer" found indicators of systemic forced labour at the manufacturer. read more

Independent migrant worker rights specialist Andy Hall said the CBP decision should be a "wake-up call" to labour-intensive industries, the government and customers.

"Top Glove's investors now urgently need to be held to account also as it is the company's owners and investors who have profited most handsomely from this failure to combat forced labour," he said.

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Reporting by Liz Lee; editing by Richard Pullin

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