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Federal Agents Raid Gibson Guitar Factories, Seize Wood

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US Justice Department Bullies Gibson Without Filing Charges

Federal government agents raided the Gibson Guitar Facilities yesterday morning, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. Manufacturing operations were stopped and workers in Nashville and Memphis sent home for the day, while armed agents executed search warrants. Gibson fully cooperated with the execution of the search warrants.

The raid shut down both Gibson factories and the company lost money. This wasn't the first time that federal agents raided Gibson and disrupted production, but this time they caused lost productivity and sales, according to Gibson.

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Seized Wood was Controlled by Forest Stewardship Council

The wood seized by the Government yesterday came from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC Controlled. That means the wood complies with the standards set down by the Forest Stewardship Council, an industry-recognized and independent not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible management of the world's forests. These standards require that the wood is legally harvested and is not in violation of traditional and civil rights.

Gibson says it has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC certified supplies. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.

Gibson says:
"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 Department's interpretation of a law in India. (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."

No Charges Filed Aftter First Raid

The previous raid on Gibson was almost two years ago, in 2009. In that raid, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory in Nashville.

Gibson reports "The Government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. To date, 1 year and 9 months later, criminal charges have NOT been filed, yet the Government still holds Gibson's property. 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."

A civil proceeding pending in federal court is an attempt by Gibson to recover its property. The Justice Department has asked the judge to stop the court case indefinitely.

Information Sought in Raid Was Already Made Available

Since that first raid in 2009, Gibson says it has fully cooperated with the Government's investigation and provided what it says is "substantial documentation" concerning their wood-buying activities. Even with this cooperation, Gibson says the Federal Government raided their facilities yesterday, without warning or communication of any kind.

This federal action caused Gibson to stop production and send workers home.

Not About Illegal Logging, Conservation, Or The Environment

Gibson says the raids are related to the U.S. Lacey Act, which does not directly address conservation issues but is about obeying all laws of the countries from which wood products are procured. According to the Lacey Act, 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 applies when a foreign law has been violated.

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Gibson maintains it is innocent and will fight to protect its rights. The company says it has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrongdoing and they will fight aggressively to prove their innocence.

Gibson Guitar Corp., based in Nashville, Tennessee is known worldwide for producing classic models in every major style of fretted instrument, including acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, and banjos.

Follow Gibson on Twitter and Facebook.

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