Top US guitar maker accused of illegal Indian wood imports

August 27th, 2011 - 10:36 am ICT by IANS  

Paul McCartney Washington, Aug 27 (IANS) Legendary US guitar maker Gibson has halted production amid a federal investigation alleging its instruments are being made from illegally imported wood from endangered plants from India.

But Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson Guitar, which has made some of the world’s most famous guitars for over a century, vowed to “aggressively fight” allegations of illegally using wood from India, after investigators raided its facilities in Nashville and Memphis Wednesday.

Juszkiewicz said the company has worked with environmental groups such as the Rainforest Alliance to ensure its wood imports are from sustainable sources and asserted: “Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrong doing.”

“(The government) has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of US 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, he said.

According to legal documents US Customs agents detained a shipment of sawn ebony logs from India in June. A month later, agents observed Indian ebony and rosewood delivered to a storage facility for Gibson. The raid followed and workers were sent home.

The Gibson guitar brand is synonymous with rock and roll and dozens of legendary guitarists have used Gibson instruments in the past, including Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney.

Gibson’s iconic Les Paul model, developed by the American jazz guitarist of the same name, revolutionised the sound of rock and roll.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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