Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feds raid Gibson Guitar in Nashville

Not exactly earth shaking news but it shows that when there are laws against something and there is money to be made from breaking those laws, smugglers are willing to take a chance. Would Gibson knowingly be involved in such a scheme as is being implied?

Iconic company investigated for illegal importation of Madagascar wood

Federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local police today seized wood, guitars, computers and boxes of files from Gibson Guitar's Massman Road manufacturing facility.

Sources say the Nashville-based guitar manufacturer is being investigated for violating the Lacey Act, a key piece of environmental law, for importing endangered species of rosewood from Madagascar.

Rosewood is widely used in the construction of guitars and sells for $5,000 per cubic meter, more than double the price of mahogany. The island nation off Africa's east coast is a key producer of the hardwood, the export of which has links to international criminal activity.

A statement from Gibson released late Tuesday afternoon says the company is "fully co-operating" with the investigation.

"Gibson Guitar is fully cooperating with agents of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service as it pertains to an issue with harvested wood. Gibson is a chain of custody certified buyer who purchases wood from legal suppliers who are to follow all standards. Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO [Henry Juszkiewicz] 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," the company's statement said.

Madagascar has struggled financially since a January coup and new President Andry Rajoelina issued an executive order in September legalizing the export of rosewood and ebony. The move was decried by environmental groups and political leaders worldwide, as hardwood forests are key to Madagascar's unique ecology and serve as a habitat for a dwindling lemur population.

Sources tell Gibson was involved in a scheme that shipped the wood from Madagascar to Germany and then to the United States. {source - Nashville Post}

Suppliers may lie

Scott Paul, director of the forest campaign for Greenpeace, said the investigation at Gibson's facility shows how complex and tricky the sale of wood products can be, especially when some sales are arranged through third parties in remote countries.

"Today proves that even if you're very serious about buying only certified, well-managed supplies, it's still possible to get caught up … in many of these regions where law enforcement is not always great and corruption is not uncommon," Paul said. "There are a lot of middle men between the guitar manufacturer and the company that is logging the ground. There are a lot of people who are not that honest in the timber business worldwide."

Gibson's prepared statement suggested that it works through other suppliers at times when buying special wood products.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Webb said the search warrant was obtained based on information in a sealed affidavit outlining the investigation. That document remained under federal court seal Tuesday evening.

Gibson Guitar is part of the MusicWood Coalition, an activist group formed by Greenpeace that also includes fellow guitar manufacturers Martin and Taylor and other industry players.

Last year, a delegation of the coalition visited Madagascar to better understand the nation's forestry practices.
Despite such efforts, though, industry officials and environmentalists say it can be tricky to be certain of the source of all woods delivered from remote areas of the globe.

Sometimes it's possible for wood not allowed under the Lacey Act to slip through as a mistake, said Richard Hoover, founder of Santa Cruz Guitar Co. in California. Hoover said it's possible that his company may have been fooled into buying illegal wood.

The Lacey Act can result in criminal penalties and fines, but if a company unknowingly breaks the law and takes possession of illegal woods, it may only result in the forfeiture of the merchandise.In general, guitar makers have not stopped using rosewood, ebony and other exotic woods, but have begun sourcing the wood from renewable supplies and going through a certification process. {more -The Tennessean}

Why all the fuss?

Madagascar, which has been isolated from landmasses for more than 160m years, is the world's fourth largest island and a "conservation hotspot" with thousands of exotic species found only here. These include nearly 100 species of lemur, six of which are deemed critically endangered.

But decades of logging, mining and farming have destroyed 90 per cent of Madagascar's forests, though the rate has slowed in the past two decades, the Guardian reports.

The former president, Marc Ravalomanana, was praised for putting 6m hectares under protection and backing eco-friendly community projects and sustainable farming. But Mr Ravalomanana was ousted in March in a violent coup that led to a "gold rush" of armed loggers and poachers.

Now lemurs' natural habitat is again under threat from the accelerating deforestation.

In addition, the endangered animals are being hunted for bushmeat, either to be eaten by drought-afflicted local populations or sold as a roasted delicacy in city restaurants.

Dr Hantanirina Rasamimanana, a researcher and teacher at Antananarivo University, told the paper: "Deforestation is always a problem, but in these past five months bushmeat is also very dangerous. People are desperate because of the lack of rain."

She added: "Here in Madagascar, when there is a political change, everything is burning. It's always like that. They burn, they cut, they destroy, they steal. "If they don't stop, I am afraid that some species will become extinct." Conservationists say that armed gangs are exploiting the security vacuum to pillage rosewood and ebony from supposedly protected forests on behalf of a so-called "timber mafia".

This year an estimated $100m worth of hardwood has been cut down and sold, mostly to China to be turned into furniture. {more}


  1. I've heard of a certain grade of British Columbian wood used in guitar making. What bugs me is the emphasis on 'poachers'
    The giant logging companies have raped B.C.s forests down to a fraction of what they once were, yet a couple guys in a pickup with a bit of wood in the back are villified and scapegoated.
    Thousand and thousands and thousands of logging truck loads shipped out of the country in raw unprocessed state, in a betrayal to local workers, no big deal.

  2. NNNghhh I'm torn between the comment box and the Aftermath news headline...
    Cops use taser on 10 year old girl....
    Nnnghhh move box to cover it...
    oh ohh forgot what my comment was going to
    be nnnnhgg,
    OH!, Guitars....
    With everything gone digital am amazed there is even a market for the things...

  3. If Gibson had been a Wall Street bank, they could of looted billions and billions, then walked away from the wreck and let the taxpayers pay for the mess.

    Or is they had started a shoot first and never ask questions murder for hire outfit like Blackwater, they'd be rolling in the dough.

    Or if they had been a medical insurance company...

    Or run by a sleazeball, mass murderer like Dick Cheney, they'd never have to worry about some pesky fed investigation.

    But damn those guitar makers for slipping up and using or not using some fancy rosewood.

    Dammit, we gotta have our prioritites right!

  4. anon 1, I hear you. It's the same here in places in TN. In my area there are only local loggers and the prices are so low that most land owners are not allowing them to cut on shares, so they're hurting.

    Is there any hemp industry in BC? That could replace the pulp for paper industry and allow some forests to regrow and be selectively logged by the locals. The big companies don't want that.

    anon 2, yeah that 10 year old kid getting tasered is the youngest I've heard of. Could be a trend. I saw a kid in Kroger's a while back spinning in the floor, screaming 'I hate you mommy.' I'm sure the crowd there was thinking 'taser her, taser her.'

    And digital music can never replace the feel and sound of a good guitar in your hands.

    Greg, you're right about everything you say, not exactly a high priority with everything else going on but they gotta keep the fish and wildlife investigators job going.

    But I wouldn't put it past Juszkiewicz, the CEO, to go around his own 'green' agenda and buy the quality wood he wants if it's profitable. He seems to have 'tribe' connections.

    Local small time Gibson dealers with a territory don't have much good to say about Gibson except for their products. They all say Gibson is very hard to deal with.

  5. Small hemp 'industry in B.C. the Gulf islands and Denman and Hornby, Cortez, Quadra, Texada,{Ohhhh, bad Deja Vu, so Ambient and beutiful} all have their hippie crowd that make Hemp fabric and 'other products.

  6. I could go on and on....Savary island, Galiano, Cracroft, Redonda, Raza, Thetis, Minstrel, Sointula, Porcher, Ahhhgh I adore them all from years of flying up and down the B.C.coast.

  7. I fully understand the feel of a nice Guitar Kenny, sadly my fat tipped fingers and F#2 tuned ears make my performances unbearable.LOL
    I've seen Pacific Yew, gorgeous wood, and quite rare. Somebody was busted with some on Vancouver Island a couple years back...

  8. Hmm, just clicked 'view source
    holy moly a ton of gibberish about another ton of gibberish.
    I had assumed my ip address would be there, nope.
    Don't really want to be anon and on, but like to remain anon as I resist registering for anything.
    On an'

  9. Juszkiewicz, the CEO

    Christ, is there any part of America they don't have their grubby paws in?

    Gibson the company might be some assholes, but the '74 Gibson SG I've got will scream like a banshee.

  10. "Gibson Guitar CEO leaves rainforest group after Nashville raid"

  11. Digital music is just right for soulless automaton video game player drones who will travel off to exotic foreign lands and kill brown people but the rest of us like the rich sound of a tube amp and some good wood guitars. Gibson and Fender for the blues, BC Rich, Charvel/Jackson for heavy metal.

  12. Anon @ 8pm your ip address shows up to the isp and blog admin. Also server referral is on (unless you turned it off) so they can see what web page you just came from. Have a nice day.

  13. I hope the comments about Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson CEO, [He seems to have 'tribe' connections. and Christ, is there any part of America they don't have their grubby paws in?] were not antisemitic in nature. I would think we should have learned our lesson about that kind of thing many years ago when we saw the result of the Holucast in 1945 and keep seeing it every day with terrorism directed towards Jews and the State of Israel and anyone who helps them.

  14. Topic; Music; Bwahaha mwahahaha
    Simply awesome.
    h ttp://

    100s of older mp3s

  15. This F U cking CRIMINAL we have in the WHITE HOUSE OBAMA is not even an American citizen. LOOK people you need to wake up or live on your knees in Slavery. THIS US GOV is run by communist fascist dictators from Europe. It;s called the NEW WORLD ORDER. Rockefeller may you rot in hell you piece of filth yea they all want to woods to there selves. We can't have a lowly musician having great wood for a Guitar, HEY US GOV I'M NOT YOUR SLAVE F CK YOU GET OUTTA MY LIFE!