Gibson raided by the Feds... again!

Inside Gibson's Memphis facility
Inside Gibson's Memphis facility (Image credit: Patrick Frilet/Hemis/Corbis)

UPDATE: 25 August 2011 saw Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz issue a statement in response to the Federal raids on Gibson's Nashville and Memphis facilities, accusing the authorities of 'bullying' Gibson Guitar.

Juszkiewicz said: "Gibson is innocent and will fight to protect its rights. Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrong doing. We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence."

"Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrong doing." Henry Juszkiewicz

He continued: "Agents seized wood that was Forest Stewardship Council controlled. Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC-certified supplies. The wood seized on 24 August satisfied FSC standards.

"The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, DC, 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. This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India."

Presumably we haven't heard the last of this ongoing saga. Read the full Gibson press release here, or watch Henry Juszkiewicz respond on video.


Earlier this month, Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said, "The true wood guitar is disappearing quickly... we need to act now because it just won't be around in 10 years." Yet Wednesday (24 August 2011) again saw Gibson offices and production facilities in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee raided by Federal agents from the US Fish and Wildlife service.

As previously reported, 2009 infamously saw Gibson's Nashville factory raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into the source of its materials, but to date, no charges have been brought. June 2011 saw the US Department Of Justice file a civil case relating to the company's alleged sourcing of ebony from Madagascar, where the harvest and export of unfinished ebony is prohibited.

According to The Tennessean, Federal agents were tight-lipped about the reasons for Wednesday's simultaneous raids in Nashville and Memphis: "We can't get into specifics right now," said Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, "This is an ongoing investigation."

Eyewitness accounts suggest that tourists arriving at the Gibson Factory in downtown Memphis found themselves locked outside the facility while the raid took place. Meanwhile, in Nashville, "news reporters and photographers strained to see what was happening from across the street."

These are challenging times for a company still reeling from disastrous flood damage to its Nashville factory in May 2010. The Gibson Guitar Company has so far refused to comment, but is reported to be "fully co-operating" with Federal officials.

Chris Vinnicombe worked with us here on the MusicRadar team from the site's initial launch way back in 2007, and also contributed to Guitarist magazine as Features Editor until 2014, as well as Total Guitar magazine, amongst others. These days he can be found at Gibson Guitars, where he is editor-in-chief.