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.
- Verified complaint seeking forfeiture of property
- Affidavit from FWS special agent detailing the allegations
- Search warrants and related documentation from the raid
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.