Indictments are expected to be made soon against Gibson Guitar regarding wood it allegedly imported from Madagascar via Germany. This assumption is based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Kevin Seiler's affidavit that included the statement, "[i]ndictments are anticipated and defendant property is expected to be used in prosecution of that matter."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency already seized six guitars made of ebony wood, 56 gigabites of computer data and more from Gibson's Massman Drive facility in Nashville after search warrants were issued by judge E. Clifton Knowles. Gibson is accused of violating the 1894 Lacey Act, which makes it illegal for any person to "import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce" particular merchandise. In this case, the Republic of Madagascar, since 2000, has had various laws that restrict the harvest and export of ebony wood.
If convicted, it's unknown what Gibson's punishment could be. Past violations of the Lacey Act have ranged from small fines stemming from misdemeanor charges to much more serious criminal accusations. It is possible criminal charges will be sought based upon Seiler's affidavit, which the Music & Sound Retailer obtained.
Gibson CEO Henry Juskiewicz was not named anywhere in the affidavit. However, named specifically on several occasions was Gene Nix, Gibson's wood product specialist. According to the affidavit filed in the United Stated District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Nix "admitted receiving, in 2008, information relating to the Madagascar law on the illegality of the exportation and importation of harvested ebony wood and that he was made aware of the prohibition on its export.
"Despite this information, in 2009, contraband ebony wood contained in the defendant property was exported from Madagascar via Germany to Gibson in the United States: More specifically, Madagascar ebony was in the possession of, or en route to, the business of Gibson or to Red Arrow Delivery Service (where Gibson stored the ebony wood) in Nashville, Tenn."
According to the affidavit, the shipment in question took place on or about September 28, 2009. Seiler stated that, at that time, exporter Nagel sent 5,200 pieces of ebony, sawn sizes and 2,133 pieces of sawn Madagascar Black sawn ebony to Hunter Trading Corporation of Westport, Conn., for the customer, Gibson. The value of the wood is stated to be $76,437.59. The affidavit continues to state Nix "was advised that the harvest of Madagascar ebony wood was illegal and the export of Madagascar ebony and rosewood was prohibited."
Gibson could not be reached for comment.
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