The Feds Raid Gibson Guitars

Now they’ve gone too far…

Photo of raid from Wall Street Journal article linked below.

“Last week, the feds apparently raided the premises of Gibson Guitar, searching for “illegal wood” used in those guitars. Apparently, the government and Gibson have been involved in an ongoing lawsuit for some time, after the feds seized some guitars in 2009 and a case commenced against the wood in the guitar (yes, against the wood, since it was one of those “in rem” cases): “United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.” Apparently, now the government is taking it up a notch, and while there is a grandfather clause, if you get your paperwork just marginally wrong and happen to own a Gibson guitar with illegal wood, the government could seize it and fine you. Apparently, a bunch of musicians are reasonably afraid, and some suggest not taking any such guitar out of the country if you ever plan on bringing it back:

It’s not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What’s the bridge made of? If it’s ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar’s headstock bone, or could it be ivory? “Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever,” Prof. Thomas has written. “Oh, and you’ll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.”

Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., has responded to the August 24 raid of Gibson facilities in Nashville and Memphis by the Federal Government. In a press release, Juszkiewicz said: “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.”

The raids forced Gibson to cease manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day while armed agents executed the search warrants. “Agents seized wood that was Forest Stewardship Council controlled,” Juszkiewicz said. “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. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.”

Juszkiewicz believes that the Justice Department is bullying Gibson without filing charges.
“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.”

To read the entire press release, click here.

I bought my first Gibson guitar in 1970. Gibson is still my brand of choice. I urge the guitarists who read this to speak out. There is something going on here that I suspect has nothing at all to do with the environment.

Be seeing you.

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