Gibson denies ‘smuggling’

GIBSON Guitar Corp renewed its plea of innocence yesterday after US agents raided its Tennessee plants and seized rare ebony wood from India used to make some of the world’s most coveted guitars.

“We were not engaged in smuggling,” chief executive Henry Juszkiewicz told CNN television. “We have been importing fingerboard stock on a regular basis from India for 17 years.”

It was the second raid in as many years targeting the makers of guitars such as Epiphone, Les Paul, and others favoured by such artists as Paul McCartney and U2’s The Edge.

“It was a nightmare. We had people sitting there making guitars. We had no weapons,” said Juszkiewicz, who reckoned the raids cost Gibson about $1 million.

Imported woods are important in guitar-making, with different species lending different tones and texture to an instrument’s sound.

While Gibson has not been criminally charged, wildlife agents reportedly suspect it might have violated a US law that forbids the import of wood exported in violation of another country’s laws.

The raids have left globe-travelling guitarists worried that their instruments could be seized by customs if they cannot prove the origin of the wood used to make them.

“The law says that if a guitar or instrument of any kind crosses a border, you have to know the species of wood that every component is made of and where it came from,” Juszkiewicz said.

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