Live updates: Malay glove magnates’ fortunes due to pandemic take a hit

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Malaysia’s five richest rubber glove tycoons, whose fortunes soared as the Covid-19 pandemic spawned a rush for protective clothing, lost $5.7 billion over the year has passed as their businesses have been hit by allegations of forced labor and increased vaccination rates against the virus.

The Forbes list of “Malaysia’s 50 Richest” for 2022 showed Kuan Kam Hon of Hartalega Holdings lost most tycoons, with a drop in wealth of $1.9 billion.

Top Glove’s Lim Wee Chai has lost $1.4 billion after his company’s products were hit by a US Customs and Border Protection ban over allegations of forced labor. CBP later revoked the ban, saying Top Glove had taken action to address its concerns. Lim’s fortune had nearly tripled in the 12 months to April last year as shares of Top Glove soared on pandemic demand.

Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of rubber surgical gloves, but the industry came under increased scrutiny after its pandemic-induced boom and was subsequently marred by a series of scandals over the alleged exploitation of migrant workers and several bans issued by US customs officials.

Stanley Thai and Cheryl Tan, whose glove-making company Supermax was also hit by a CBP ban in October, saw their wealth drop by more than two-thirds to $340 million, the largest percentage drop in the list this year, Forbes said. Supermax said in January it had taken steps to improve working conditions.

Overall, Malaysia’s 50 richest have lost 10%, or $80.5 billion, of their wealth in the past 12 months, dragged down by a 6% depreciation of the ringgit. Robert Kuok, founder of the Shangri-La hotel chain, retained the top spot, although his wealth fell to $11 billion from $12.1 billion a year earlier.

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