Nashville’s Gibson Guitars was closed down Wednesday morning as federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided the company’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville looking for illegal wood.
Immigration and Customs officials also took part in the raid.
Several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars were seized by federal agents.
According to News Channel 5:
Back in 2009, federal agents suspected that Gibson was illegally importing Rosewood and Ebony from Madagascar, then using the material to make guitars.
But folks who work near the plant aren’t so sure.
“I’ve seen this before about illegal wood saying they haven’t done anything wrong and I tend to believe them because it doesn’t make sense for them to use illegal wood when they’re established over 40-50 years some of the finest guitars in the world,” Dave Maschinski said.
In the 2009 raid, federal agents armed with automatic weapons seized guitars and ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. After nearly two years, charges have not been filed and the government still holds the property, according to Gibson.
Gibson also says that sworn statements and documents from the government of Madagascar, which have been filed in federal court, show that the wood seized in 2009 was legally exported under that nation’s law and no law has been violated. Gibson is attempting to have its property returned in a civil proceeding that is pending in federal court.
Channel 5 reports that environmentalists believe that harvesting the wood disrupts that nation’s native lemur population.
But Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., says the company is innocent.
“Gibson is innocent and will fight to protect its rights. Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of ANY wrong doing. We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence,” he said in a statement Thursday.
Juszkiewicz said the wood seized in the raid meets all Forest Stewardship Council standards.
“Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC-certified supplies,” he said.
“The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards,” Juszkiewicz added.
Moreover, he says the Justice Department is bullying the company and the raid is in response to the Department’s interpretation of an Indian law.
“The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.”
Gibson says it has fully cooperated with the government and has provided extensive documentation regarding the company’s wood-buying activities.
Wednesday’s raid, Gibson said, was conducted without any warning or communication.
The U.S. Lacey Act does not directly address conservation issues but is about obeying all laws of the countries from which wood products are procured. This law reads that you are guilty if you did not observe a law even though you had no knowledge of that law in a foreign country. The U.S. Lacey Act is only applicable when a foreign law has been violated.
Meanwhile, millions of illegal immigrants remain in the country.
If you like this article, you can follow Joe on Twitter @jnewby1956, visit his Facebook page, or click the Subscribe button to receive email updates when a new article is published.