The Department of Justice announced an agreement August 6th that will end the criminal investigation of the Gibson Guitar Company regarding its importation of exotic hardwoods from India and Madagascar. Gibson has acknowledged that these importations violated environmental law, specifically the Lacey Act, which bans the importation of endangered wood products.
Gibson agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty fine and forfeit $262,000 worth of wood that was seized by federal agents in 2009. Howver, the government will return $155,000 worth of wood from India that was seized from Gibson in a 2011 raid. The company will also donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that will be used to further the protection of tree species.
Gibson revealed that they received a report in 2008 concluding that it was illegal to harvest or export ebony from Madagascar. However, in 2009 they bought wood from a German supplier named T.N. who obtained four shipments of Madagascar ebony. Buying wood from illegal sources can have extremely damaging result on a country. The Department of Justice’s statement reads, “Madagascar Ebony is a slow-growing tree species and supplies are considered threatened in its native environment due to over-exploitation…Madagascar’s forests are home to many rare endemic species of plants and animals.”
According to Gibson’s statement regarding the case, “Gibson assumed, without asking, that T.N. had undertaken to provide it with lawfully harvested and exported materials.”
The government conceded in the agreement that there are still uncertainties regarding the legality of Indian wood. They concluded that Gibson’s future orders, purchases, and imports of wood from India will not be restricted until the Indian government gives more information regarding it’s legality.
In turn, Gibson has promised to exercise more care when determining whether or not wood purchases are fully legal.