The chief executive of Gibson Guitar company has gone on record that the firm would fight a federal investigation of the guitar maker's wood imports. This comes after federal agents raided the company for the second time in two years.
Agents entered Gibson's facilities in Nashville and Memphis, TN, on Wednesday, seizing wood imported from India and sending company workers home. In an affidavit, authorities indicated they are considering charges against the company and/or its executives for illegally importing wood under a US law that bars importation of endangered plants and woods. The company's sued to recover its property.
"Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrong doing," Chief Executive Officer Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement on Thursday. "We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence." Juszkiewicz said the company, which started more than a century ago has worked with environmental groups like Rainforest Alliance to ensure its wood imports are from sustainable sources.
"(The government) has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of US law, but because it is the Justice Department's interpretation of a law in India," Juszkiewicz claims. He stated that if the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.
Federal agent John Rayfield of the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in an affidavit that US Customs detained a shipment of sawn ebony logs from India back in June 2011. The paperwork that accompanied the shipment identified it fraudulently as Indian ebony fingerboards for guitars and it did not say it was going to Gibson, the affidavit charges.
In July, agents observed Indian ebony and rosewood delivered to a Gibson storage facility, according to the affidavit, which asked permission to seize Gibson's business computers. Gibson had previously been raided in 2009 as well, when agents confiscated ebony imported from Madagascar.