What the feds found at Gibson

Ever since agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service descended on Gibson Guitar's Massman Road manufacturing facility one day last November, seizing wood, guitars, computers and boxes of files, observers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now it has, at least in part.

This week, in a series of court filings aimed at the seizure of illegally imported ebony from Madagascar, the government has laid out detailed allegations of illicit activity involving Gibson personnel — though neither the company nor its employees currently face criminal charges.

Trade pub Furniture Today has the skinny:

In September 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported to a U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agent the import of a shipment of Madagascar ebony wood at the port of Newark, N.J., from a Germany company called Nagel to Gibson Guitars.

Its import declaration package and invoices were for 5,200 pieces of sawn ebony and 2,133 pieces of sawn Madagascar black ebony, with a total value $76,437.

Gibson had placed the order via Nagel GMBH and Co KG of Hamburg, Germany, which exported the ebony through its affiliate Hunter Trading Corp. of Westport, Conn.

When the wood entered the U.S. en route to Gibson, it was missing the plant products declaration required by the Lacey Act. This looks like it's where Gibson got caught.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is now asking Nashville's U.S. District Court to allow it to confiscate six guitars made with the endangered ebony, along with supplies of raw wood seized in the November raid. The filings:

We have a call in to a Gibson spokesperson and will update this post with any response. The company was in the news earlier this month for its current efforts to ensure its wood supplies come from legal and renewable sources.

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The changes to the Lacey Act

The changes to the Lacey Act and the implementing regulations have been long heralded in newsletters dealing with customs and international trade law. Someone just hasn't paying attention. Perhaps the Tennesseee bar should pay attention to the fact that a third of GDP is related to international trade and start offering CLEs that will inform members about rules that can bite their clients.

"though neither the company

"though neither the company nor its employees currently face criminal charges."

Typical. A lax standard for the wealthy and the corporations, a strict standard for the rest of us.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Book 'em Dano!

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