Gibson backs down on exotic woods

gibsonThough it does not apply to the acoustic instrument division, many bluegrass players have been following the case of Gibson Guitars and their investigation by the US government over charges of illegally importing woods for use in building guitars.

In the immediate aftermath of the most recent raid a year ago, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz insisted that the company had done nothing wrong, and would fight these charges aggressively. He made a number of appearances on news talk programs last summer pushing this line.

But according to several reports today, Gibson has agreed to pay a substantial fine, relinquish their claim to the wood seized in a pair of raids on the Gibson facilities, and make a “community service” payment to the Fish & Wildlife Service to resolve the matter. The US Department of Justice will not prosecute further according to the terms of this agreement, detailed in a press release from their Environment and Natural Resources Division this morning.

Gibson Guitar Corp. entered into a criminal enforcement agreement with the United States today resolving a criminal investigation into allegations that the company violated the Lacey Act by illegally purchasing and importing ebony wood from Madagascar and rosewood and ebony from India.

The agreement was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee and Dan Ashe, Director of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The criminal enforcement agreement defers prosecution for criminal violations of the Lacey Act and requires Gibson to pay a penalty amount of $300,000. The agreement further provides for a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used to promote the conservation, identification and propagation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry and the forests where those species are found. Gibson will also implement a compliance program designed to strengthen its compliance controls and procedures. In related civil forfeiture actions, Gibson will withdraw its claims to the wood seized in the course of the criminal investigation, including Madagascar ebony from shipments with a total invoice value of $261,844.

In light of Gibson’s acknowledgement of its conduct, its duties under the Lacey Act and its promised cooperation and remedial actions, the government will decline charging Gibson criminally in connection with Gibson’s order, purchase or importation of ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India, provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement, and commits no future violations of law, including Lacey Act violations.

No word in this report about the electronic data and storage devices confiscated along with the wood in the prior raids.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.