Gibson, for the first time, has responded to allegations it violated the Lacey Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department has been investigating Gibson for the past 14 months. The Lacey Act relates to those who "import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce" particular merchandise. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department is expected to accuse Gibson of illegally importing wood from Madagascar.
Gibson has remained quiet about the possible allegations since federal agents raided the company's property and seized documents in late 2009. The alleged shipment took place on or about September 28, 2009. However, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz spoke publicly for the first time to WSMV-TV in Nashville. Juszkiewicz said his company was invited by Greenpeace to Madagascar. The goal was to convince the people and the
government not to cut exotic trees faster than they could be grown back. According to the TV story, a year later, a shipment of Madagascar ebony and rosewood arrived in Nashville. Suddenly, Gibson and its representative were facing off against federal agents. "They were SWAT guys, you know, with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests," Juszkiewicz said. "And they were pretty mean-looking guys."Gibson added no wrongdoing took place on its part. "Historically and currently, the laws of Madagascar have allowed for the exportation of ebony and rosewood in certain finished forms, fingerboards being one," Bruce Mitchell, Gibson's attorney, told WSMV. "Guitar components called fingerboards were taken in the raid. The inlay and fret lines were added in Nashville, but Gibson said even what appeared to be bare pieces were not unfinished."
"'Finished' isn't an English dictionary term; it's a legal term in Madagascar. It's defined, and the law specifically defines a fingerboard blank as a finished good," added Juszkiewicz. "It's not illegal. It's not illegal under Madagascar law. You can't argue with the facts." Juszkiewicz continued, saying, "Yeah, I feel we're being set up. As the only company that's been sort of leading certification and very actively involved in the area, compared to, you know, competitors, why would they pick on us for this issue?
Factually, other companies in our industry buy wood from Madagascar. None of them has been investigated."
"I'm, without question, comfortable we're doing everything properly and I think people will understand that in the end," said Mitchell.
Gibson told the TV station it no longer buys wood from Madagascar. That's not the only news involving Gibson. The company is suing two insurance companies in federal court for allegedly not fully covering flood damages. Gibson suffered $17 million in damages at its manufacturing facility and storage area during well-documented flooding in May. Gibson is suing Continental Insurance Company and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance USA. Continental has agreed to pay $10 million in damages.
However, Mitsui refused to pay additional funds because it claims it covers the warehouse facility. The storage area is not physically located at the same address. Gibson sued both companies because it says it has always treated the two places as one single facility for accounting purposes. According to Gibson, the two companies inappropriately tried to segregate them. Gibson is seeking the full amount of its flood damages, compensatory damages and interest.
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