A few months ago, we reported that a section of the US Government was threatening to seize guitars from famous musicians during America’s festival season. The batty news came following raids conducted by federal agents of the US Fish and Wildlife branch in August of last year on the Nashville and Memphis facilities of famed guitar maker, Gibson.
With guns drawn, federal agents stormed the factories for proof that the 117-year-old guitar makers were using illegal lumber and wood sourced from ‘protected forests’ in the construction of their instruments; ‘repossessing’ over $US 1 million worth of rosewood, ebony and stocks of lumber under the justification of an ongoing court case entitled “United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.”
News Ltd now reports that nearly year after the incursions, in which no guilty evidence turned up nor any criminal charges made from the Justice Dept. against the company; Gibson Guitar Corp. are now rolling over, paying fines and making promises to increase their import controls in exchange for the Federal Government deferring prosecution of environmental crimes.
The Justice Department’s ongoing case against the marquee guitar makes alleged that Gibson were illegally importing protected hardwoods from Madagascar and India for use in its products, maintaining that Gibson was aware of the controversial source of their elements.
Following the raids and legal battles, Gibson CEO Henry Juskiewicz took to the media, claiming that the interference was a “clear overreach” of government power. Noting in Gibson’s press release, they had “fully co-operated with the execution of the search warrants.”
Despite efforts to have the case taken to US Congress, including appeals to make changes to parts of an obscure wildlife protection law that dates back to the 1900s called the Lacey Act, Juskiewicz and his company have now relented.
Ordered by the Department of Justice, Gibson Guitar Corp. have agreed to pay a $US 300,000 (approx. $AU 280,000) penalty and make a $US 50,000 (approx $AU 47,500) donation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to aid in promoting the conversation of protected woods. Essentially, they’ve paid in damages so that the Federal Government will cease pestering them.
Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno issued a statement shortly after the settlement, which happened late last month; that read:
“Gibson has ceased acquisitions of wood species from Madagascar and recognises its duty under the US Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin by verifying the circumstances of its harvest and export, which is good for American business and American consumers.”
Gibson’s downfall was the aforementioned Lacey Act, that since 2008 has made the harvesting of protected and exported woods a legal violation. First implemented by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a conservation group who has championed the implication of the Lacey Act to prosecute high-profile targets like the guitar makers.