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Gibson Guitar Factory Raided by Feds **UPDATE with Gibson Response

** UPDATE  from Premier Guitar


Gibson Responds to Raid by Feds

Joe Coffey


Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz addresses the media in Nashville. Photo by Andy Ellis
Nashville, TN (August 25, 2011) — Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz addressed the media in a rare press conference today, commenting on recent federal raids at facilities in Nashville and Memphis. 

“We’re not in the wrong,” Juszkiewicz said to reporters on the steps of the company’s Gibson USA facility on Massman Drive in Nashville. “We haven’t actually been charged with any wrongdoing.” The company simultaneously issued a press release stating that it will fight aggressively to prove its innocence. 

The company is involved in two investigations concerning the Lacey Act. At issue is the legality of some of the wood the company uses to make guitars. Ebony from the Republic of Madagascar was seized in a 2009 raid, and Indian rosewood was seized yesterday. 

“The Lacey Act is very recent,” Juszkiewicz said. “That law was passed two years ago. So it’s not like that law has been around for a long, long time. But according to this law, if you bought a guitar from us and we sell it, you are criminally liable. You, not us. Everyone who touches the product, the store owner who sells that guitar, is criminally liable.”

The Lacey Act was originally signed into law in 1900. It serves to protect plants and wildlife through a series of penalties for buying, trafficking, and possessing certain species. It’s assumed that Juszkiewicz was referring to a recent amendment to the law, enacted via the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, that has many luthiers crying foul. Some interpretations suggest that it is poorly written and would even prohibit most guitarists from traveling overseas with their existing guitars if taken seriously. 

According to Juszkiewicz, Gibson has sworn statements and paperwork from the Republic of Madagascar on file in federal court declaring that the ebony seized in 2009 was legally obtained. Juszkiewicz added that the rosewood seized in yesterday’s raids is in compliance with standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a non-government organization dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious forest management practices. 

“The Justice Department’s position is that any guitar that we ship out of this facility is potentially [an] obstruction of justice and to be followed with criminal charges because we bought product from India,” Juszkiewicz said. However, Gibson employees returned to work today—a move he said he is personally responsible for. 

“I’ve instructed our staff to continue building the product,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about Gibson’s compliance with the government following yesterday’s raids. “I’ve taken personal responsibility for that action,” he said.

Juszkiewicz’s frustration was apparent. “We feel totally abused,” he said. “We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally, and the employees in Tennessee—and it’s just plain wrong."

Currently, a government lawsuit against the company has put the items seized in the 2009 raid in legal limbo while raising question of whether serious charges could be brought against Gibson, Juszkiewicz, and others in the company. The government claims the materials are contraband, but Gibson disagrees and wants them back. In a trial that resumes Monday, the government is weighing whether or not separate criminal charges should be filed. The judge has been asked to temporarily suspend the forfeiture trial until a decision is made.

Premier Guitar will bring you more on this story as it develops.


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from The Tennesean

August 25, 2011

Gibson Guitar Raided But Lips Zipped


Federal agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gather at the parking lot of the Gibson plant in Nashville, Wednesday, / Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean



Federal authorities conducted simultaneous raids at Gibson Guitaroffices and factories in Nashville and Memphis on Wednesday in the latest of a series of legal woes to strike the legendary guitar maker.

Gibson has been the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit and a separate investigation into whether it illegally imported endangered ebony woods to use in its sought-after instruments.

Federal agents were tight-lipped about the reason for Wednesday’s raids — the second in two years — or what they yielded.

“We can’t get into specifics right now,” said Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted the raids along with agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “This is an ongoing investigation.”

Chavez said the raid stemmed from a Texas case, but he declined to elaborate.

At Wednesday’s raid on Gibson’s Massman Drive facility — which manufactures the iconic Gibson Les Paul electric guitar — federal agents gathered inside while news reporters and photographers strained to see what was happening from across the street.

Tourists arriving at the Gibson Guitar factory in downtown Memphis found the doors locked and agents inside, theCommercial Appeal reported.

At Gibson headquarters on Plus Park Boulevard, a receptionist told a reporter that officials would not comment.

Efforts to reach Gibson officials and their attorney by phone were unsuccessful. Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has said previously the company was “fully cooperating” with federal officials.

The guitar maker is currently in the midst of a lawsuit stemming from the last federal raid.

In the November 2009 raid on its Nashville factory, authorities seized six guitars and pallets that they alleged were stacked with ebony wood from Madagascar rain forests. Federal authorities said the wood was imported in violation of the federal Lacey Act, which bars the importation of endangered plants and woods.

Claim contested

The government sued the company to permanently forfeit the items, claiming they are contraband — a claim Gibson is contesting.

In recent papers filed in that case, U.S. attorneys indicated that the government was weighing whether to pursue a separate criminal prosecution against Gibson or particular individuals — a process which could subject the company, its officials or other individuals to fines or jail time.

They’ve asked the judge in the case, William Joseph Haynes Jr., to temporarily suspend the forfeiture case while the criminal investigation is pursued. The case resumes on Monday.

U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, citing ongoing investigations, said he was unable to comment on whether Wednesday’s raids were directly related to the case.

The raids come during a particularly trying period for the guitar company, which can trace its roots back to the late 19th century.

Gibson sustained extensive flood damage in May 2010 at the Massman Drive facility, which produces 2,500 guitars a month. The facility went offline for nearly three months.

Last March, the company sued its insurers, claiming the companies failed to fully cover its damages, which it placed at $17 million. That lawsuit was recently transferred from federal court to Davidson County Chancery Court.

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Authorities raid Gibson Guitar factory in downtown Memphis

By Nick Kenney - bio | email




(WMC-TV) - Authorities carried out a raid Wednesday at the Gibson Guitar factory in downtown Memphis.

Few details were released about the raid, which was carried about by agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. 

Gibson has been under a cloud of suspicion because of wood that was used in some of its guitars. Gibson's factory in Nashville was raided last year because federal authorities believed some of the company's guitar parts were made from wood that was illegally cut and shipped from Madagascar.

Officials said agents were serving a search warrant as part of the ongoing investigation.

Through a window Wednesday, our cameras rolled as U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents took control of the factory floor and began to inventory stock. Meanwhile, UHaul trucks were waiting at the factory's loading dock to carry away materials.

In addition to activity in Memphis, a government spokesperson said, a similar raid was carried out Wednesday at the Nashville factory.

The factory in Memphis is closed for the day, and employees were sent home.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.


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from WKRN.com

Feds raid Gibson Guitar Corp. in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Federal agents raided the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Nashville Wednesday morning.

Authorities have yet to release details as to why the facility on Massman Drive off Elm Hill Pike was raided although it's believed to be related to a raid at the same facility in November 2009 for possible violations of the Lacey Act.

The Lacey Act is a federal environmental law that prohibits importing endangered plants and wildlife.  It was amended in 2009 to also include wood products.

During the raid in 2009, federal agents seized materials, files and computers from the plant on allegations that a rare ebony wood from Madagascar was illegally used at the factory.

No charges were ever filed

Wednesday morning, several hundred employees at the facility were first evacuated.  They were later told to go home after being allowed to reenter the building to collect their belongings.

The Gibson Guitar facility in Memphis was also raided by federal authorities Wednesday morning.

Agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remained on the scene in Nashville Wednesday afternoon.

Nashville's News 2 will update this story as more information becomes available.


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from KnoxNews.com


Federal agents raid Gibson guitar plant


NASHVILLE — Federal agents on Tuesday raided a Gibson guitar manufacturing plant and seized guitars amid concerns about where the Nashville-based company obtains the fine woods that go into its instruments.

Television stations reported that authorities seized wood guitars and other items, but no one was arrested.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Gibson officials did not return a call to The Associated Press for comment.

But Gibson did issue a statement saying the company is “fully cooperating with agents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as it pertains to an issue with harvested wood.”

Guitars and other musical instruments are often built from tropical hardwoods. Amid rainforest depletion, such woods are increasingly the focus of tight controls.

“Gibson is a chain of custody certified buyer who purchases wood from legal suppliers who are to follow all standards,” the statement said. “Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO sits on the board of the Rainforest Alliance and takes the issue of certification very seriously. The company will continue to cooperate fully and assist our federal government with all inquiries and information.”

Gibson Guitar Corp. manufactures acoustic and electric guitars. The company also makes pianos through its Baldwin brand.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Nashville's News 2 will update this story as more information becomes available.


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Replies to This Discussion

Updated with a Gibson response
Just like the wonderful government we have.... Kill a few more jobs instead of saving or creating them!!!

I think the government could have handled this differently and more efficiently don't ya think?


Gibson owners you should be ashamed.... send me your guitars so that I may take away your guilt!



This is BS.Just another reason to defund the EPA.This is your tax dollars at work.




Old Lowe said:

That guy on camera donates mega big bucks to the Republican cause.

True story

Just sayin

Mega update....now they say becuse of the raid...they now need to send jobs overseas!!!


yeah, they get caught with wood stolen from the forest, and now blame everyone....but themseleves!





No.It's the FED that want those jobs sent over seas.



I guess, but who evers fault it is, is ashamed that it's even an option...It boggles my mind the workers have to worry about loseing thier job

William H. Bonny said:

No.It's the FED that want those jobs sent over seas.



A Campaign to Amend the Lacey Act

Background: On August 24, 2011, agents from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee and seized more than 10,000 guitar fingerboards made from Indian Rosewood along with computers and other records. The US Government claims that Gibson violated the Lacey Act by purchasing and exporting Fingerboards from India. The Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to prevent trafficking in illegally harvested or illegally exported plants and further states that plant materials, like fingerboards, cannot be taken in violation of the laws of another country. Gibson took extra measures to make sure that the fingerboards were legally exportable and even received approval from the Indian Government before purchasing the fingerboards. Gibson has done nothing wrong and firmly believes that the Lacey Act does not give the United States the power to tell another country how to enforce their laws.

In a piece for Huffington Post titled "Repeal the Lacey Act? Hell No, Make It Stronger," Juszkiewicz wrote: "As a lifelong conservationist, I am distressed that our government is using a law as important as the Lacey Act not to fight illegal logging but to enforce protectionist Indian labor statutes. This use of scarce governmental resources does nothing to further the critical environmental effort to halt global deforestation or to protect American jobs."

Gibson is working with relevant authorities to amend the Lacey Act and has become the voice for other small businesses, some of which have faced similar treatment. Gibson wants to continue bringing global awareness to the issues at hand and requests that you help take its efforts to the next level!

There are three new ways to help Gibson turn up the volume, spread the word, and Fight for Your Right to Rock. Best of all, participants will have the opportunity to win a customized Gibson USA Les Paul Standard ($3,899 MSRP) adorned with the winning logo.
  1. Shoot a video - Express yourself by sending us creative short clips on amending the act—movies, abstract, reality, animation—we’re open to it all!
    Enter VIDEO contest - US residents      Canadian residents      European residents

  2. Create an original song - Write and perform a catchy tune about making the Lacey Act fair.
    Enter SONG contest - US residents      Canadian residents      European residents

  3. Develop a logo - Send us your best images about changing the Lacey Act and the winning submission may end up being used to spread the word.
    Enter LOGO contest - US residents

Thanks again from Gibson for all your support.

In our local paper 11-14-2011

Gibson Guitar ignites debate over environmental protections

Three years ago, Democrats and Republicans joined to expand the nation’s oldest federal wildlife law to cover illegal logging.

But then federal investigators picked Gibson Guitar as the first target of the new provision, confiscating guitars and pallets of ebony two years ago that allegedly came from wood illegally logged in Madagascar. In August they seized more than 100,000 fingerboards allegedly made from imported Indian rosewood, along with electronic files.



Gibson Guitar’s chief executive , Henry Juszkiewicz, is striking back with efforts to amend the law, to provide more certainty not just for instrument manufacturers and dealers but also for musicians, who theoretically could run afoul of it by possessing instruments containing illegal wood.

That’s put him in the spotlight of the conservative campaign against what some view as federal regulatory overreach, and he’s gained an eclectic band of allies — including tea party adherents and the Democrat who represents the home of country music.

“I’m being pulled into this involvement through the Justice Department action,” Juszkiewicz said. “I’m sort of in the frying pan and my thought process is, that’s wrong. . . . Let me look at what is the problem, and let me fix it.”

Interior Department spokesman Adam Fetcher declined to comment on the federal inquiry into Gibson’s actions. No criminal charges have been filed in what federal officials call an ongoing probe; Gibson is fighting for return of the confiscated material.

Juszkiewicz’s campaign — which includes hiring the lobbying firm Crowell & Moring on retainer for more than $10,000 a month — has begun to yield results. In mid-October, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) introduced a bill that would protect anyone who unknowingly possesses wood that violates the Lacey Act from prosecution; exempt any wood products owned before May 22, 2008, from the law; and compel the federal government to publish an Internet database of illegal wood sources to inform the public.

“The Gibson incident highlighted the urgency of looking at Lacey,” Cooper said. “I do want to protect guitar players and musicians who have old instruments. That’s the main focus of the law.”

Country music star Vince Gill and other musicians, such as Steve Bryant, who wrote the song “Keep Your Hands Off Our Wood,” argue that they could be held liable for old instruments without proper documentation.

Institute for Liberty President Andrew Langer, a conservative activist, said the Lacey Act is getting much more attention now than when he and others decried it after David McNab was convicted in 2001 of illegally importing lobster tails from Honduras. “Given that it’s Gibson Guitar, it’s certainly much, much higher profile than a seafood importer in the Gulf.”

    Senior officials from the Justice Department and Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service have repeatedly rejected the idea that musicians could run afoul of the Lacey Act. In a Sept. 19 letter to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who co-sponsored Cooper’s bill, officials from the two agencies wrote, “people who unknowingly possess a musical instrument or other object that contains wood that was illegally taken, transported or sold in violation of the law and who, in the exercise of due care, would not have known it was illegal, do not have criminal exposure. The Federal Government focuses its enforcement efforts on those who are removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them.”

To win GOP support, Cooper wrote a bill that covers far more than musicians. It would remove requirements for retailers and manufacturers bringing in non-solid wood products — such as pulp and paper — to identify their source, as well as prevent the confiscation of illegally logged wood from someone who did not knowingly possess it.

Environmentalists, forest product manufacturers, union officials and several lawmakers warned that revamping the Lacey Act could have profound economic and ecological consequences.



Northland Forest Products chief executive Jameson S. French, who helped push for the 2008 amendment, said the measure “sent the message to the global business community that the U.S. meant business about no illegal wood products being brought into this country.”

The American Forest and Paper Association estimates that illegal logging costs the U.S. timber and wood products industry $1 billion a year, and it opposes any immediate change to the Lacey Act. French said America’s grade lumber exports have soared in recent years as overseas suppliers look for hardwood products that can reenter the United States without a problem.

The environmental stakes are high as well. National parks in Madagascar have been decimated by illegal logging since a 2009 coup d’etat created political disarray there. In places such as Masoala National Park, a reserve affilated with the Zurich Zoo, poorly paid poachers create trails into the forest, consume forest lemurs and flying foxes to sustain themselves and fell five trees for every one of precious wood they take because ebony and rosewood timber cannot float on their own.

Part of the drive to retool the Lacey Act stems from its requirement that businesses take “due care” to ensure their suppliers were not violating the law in the wood’s country of origin. Langer calls the requirement “onerous.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who co-authored the 2008 amendment, said responsible businesses shouldn’t have a compliance problem. “The whole concept here was to promote people being more conscious of what happened in their supply chain,” he said.

Gibson and other major guitar manufacturers conducted a fact-finding mission in Madagascar in 2008. Taylor Guitars and Martin Guitars stopped obtaining wood from Madagascar, but according to an e-mail that has surfaced in the federal probe, a Gibson employee wrote that a local supplier could still obtain ebony from “the gray market.”

Juszkiewicz — who backs Cooper’s bill but is still seeking changes in it that would provide U.S. firms with greater certainty about what wood is acceptable to import — said he believes it is possible to obtain legitimately harvested wood from Madagascar. He said he decided to keep buying there because he doesn’t see “prohibition” as an answer. “How does that fix the problem?” he asked, adding that a better approach is to say, “We want to buy the wood from you, but we only want to buy the wood that’s good.”

Alexander Von Bismarck, who as executive director of the D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency documented the illegal timber trade in Madagascar, said the country doesn't need that kind of help.

“We found that the money that flows to the timber barons is systematically moved overseas while the logger in Madagascar gets a few dollars a day to break into a national park and steal wood,” he wrote in an e-mail. “That’s not supporting development, that’s just supporting crime.” 

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