Government raids Gibson factory
September 05, 2011
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 Departmentís interpretation of a law in India, says Jeremy Singer, spokesperson for Gibson UK. (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, Singer adds.

In the morning of August 24, 2011 agents for the federal government executed four search warrants on Gibsonís facilities in Nashville and Memphis and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. Gibson had to cease its manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day, while armed agents executed the search warrants. Gibson claims to have fully cooperated with the execution of the search warrants, the second time that federal agents have raided Gibson facilities.

Wood seized was Forest Stewardship Council controlled

According to Singer, the wood the government seized during the raid is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC Controlled. This means that the wood complies with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is an industry-recognized and independent, not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible management of the worldís forests. FSC Controlled Wood standards require, among other things, that the wood not be illegally harvested and not be harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights.

2009 deja vu?

In 2009, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory in Nashville. The government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. To date criminal charges have not been filed, yet the government still holds Gibsonís property, Singer reports. Gibson has obtained sworn statements and documents from the Madagascar government and these materials, which have been filed in federal court, show that the wood seized in 2009 was legally exported under Madagascar law and that no law has been violated. Gibson is attempting to have its property returned in a civil proceeding that is pending in federal court.

Since 2009, Gibson claims to have fully cooperated with the governmentís investigation of wood and has provided substantial documentation regarding Gibsonís wood-buying activities over the years. Yet, the federal government raided Gibsonís facilities on August 24, 2011, without warning or communication of any kind. Gibson says it would have done what would have been necessary to cooperate with the government and avoid a shut-down.

What's this all about>

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. Gibson says it is innocent and will fight to protect its rights.

Editor's note: In view of the stagnant employment rate for August one wonders what the government's actual motivation is for harassing a company, incurring a major amount of expense and potentially threatening workers' jobs without following through on actual penalties. Oh right, it does keep a lot of civil servants employed.

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