“They…come in with weapons, they seized a half-million dollars worth of property, they shut our factory down, and they have not charged us with anything,” says Gibson Guitars CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, referring to the August 2011 raid on his Nashville and Memphis factories by agents from the Departments of Homeland Security and Fish & Wildlife.
The feds raided Gibson for using an inappropriate tariff code on wood from India, which is a violation of the anti-trafficking statute known as The Lacey Act. At issue is not whether the wood in question was endangered, but whether the wood was the correct level of thickness and finish before being exported from India. “India is wanting to ensure that raw wood is not exported without some labor content from India,” says Juskiewicz.
Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) counters that “it’s not up to Gibson to decide which laws…they want to respect.” She points out that Gibson had previously been raided under The Lacey Act for imports from Madagascar.
This much is clear: The government has yet to file any charges or allow Gibson a day in court to makes its case, much less retrieve its materials. “This is not about responsible forestry and sustainable wood or illegal logging, this is about a bureaucratic law,” argues Juszkiewicz, who testified last year before a congressional hearing convened by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). It is, he says, “a blank check for abuse.”