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The Department of Justice is under fire for taking the bold step of sending armed agents into the factories of Gibson Guitar in Nashville and Memphis to seize what it is convinced is  illegal ebony, according to the news website Red States.

Gibson explains:

The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.

“Unbelievably enough, this was not the first time that the Gibson factories have been raided for this same reason,” writes Ben Howe for Red States. The Gibson press release continues:

“In 2009, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory in Nashville. The Government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar.

“To date, 1 year and 9 months later, criminal charges have NOT been filed, yet the Government still holds Gibson’s property. Gibson has obtained sworn statements and documents from the Madagascar government and these materials, which have been filed in federal court, show that the wood seized in 2009 was legally exported under Madagascar law and that no law has been violated. Gibson is attempting to have its property returned in a civil proceeding that is pending in federal court.

So why has the DOJ gone crazy for wood? They believe they are complying with the Lacey Act, specifically, this provision:

Anyone who imports into the United States, or exports out of the United States, illegally harvested plants or products made from illegally harvested plants, including timber, as well as anyone who exports, transports, sells, receives, acquires or purchases such products in the United States, may be prosecuted. In any prosecution under the Lacey Act, the burden of proof of a violation rests on the government.

Gibson says the Justice Department is actually trying to shut down indefinitely the civil court case that Gibson filed to have their property returned. Given that Gibson is the premier guitar manufacturer worldwide, you have to wonder where the music industry is on this issue.

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