Gibson Guitars agreed to pay penalties totaling over $$600,000 for smuggling exotic endangered wood into the United States in violation of the century-old Lacey Act. The Act was amended in 2008 to ban importation of illegally harvested hardwoods like Madagascar ebony. Gibson builds many well-known guitar models including the ES-355 (B.B. King and Chuck Berry play it) and the Les Paul, and many of these guitars have ebony fretboards. Madagascar has forbidden logging of its slow-growing ebony since 2006, meaning US importation from that date forward was illegal.
In order to avoid criminal prosecution, Gibson acknowledged that it imported exotic wood in violation of environmental laws, paid the Justice Department $300,000 in penalties, forfeited claims to over $250,000 worth of wood seized by the Feds, and contributed $50,000 to a foundation to promote the conservation of protected tree species.
At least Gibson didn’t get caught smuggling illegal weapons into the country. Blackwater did that.
“Gibson Guitar Settles Claim Over Imported Ebony,” James C. McKinley, Jr., New York Tmes
“Gibson Guitar Corporation admits to importing endangered wood,” Erik Schelzig, AP via Christian Science Monitor
“Gibson Guitar admits to illegally importing protected hardwoods from Madagascar, India,” Stacey Leasca, GlobalPost
“Gibson Guitar settles federal environmental case,” Kevin G. Hall, NY Daily News
“Gibson Guitar agrees to penalties in illegal wood import case,” Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times
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