In August, armed federal agents raided the offices and factories of the legendary Gibson Guitar Corp. in Nashville and Memphis. It was the second time the feds had ransacked the renowned Tennessee guitar-maker since President Barack Obama took office. And what were they going after? Dirty laundering monies? Gun smugglers? Cocaine cargo that could make cartels quiver?
No. The federal search and seizure sought to capture ... ready? Wood. To be exact, rosewood and ebony from India, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had declared to be illegal to import.
Yes, your tax dollars were again hard at work as federal agents sought to bust another pillar of American business by rounding up alleged tree contraband based upon a century-old law. It is called the Lacey Act, which was signed by President William McKinley all the way back on May 25, 1900. Initially, the act was adopted to prevent big-game poachers from killing endangered birds in Africa, particularly to regulate trade in feathered hats. It was later expanded and amended to include endangered plants and illegalize the importing of all forms of fauna and flora, including wood, which was added to the act just three years ago.
So what was Gibson Guitar's specific crime? The feds say Gibson shipped rosewood and ebony that were in an "unfinished" state (i.e., not cut into thin strips or veneer, which is perfectly legal in India). However, Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz says he possesses a letter from the government of India that declares the legality of the wood as a "finished" product for fretboards on the necks of the guitars.
Last week, Fox News further elaborated that Vinod Srivastava, India's deputy director-general of foreign trade, stipulated in a letter dated Sept. 16, "Fingerboard is a finished product and not wood in primary form. The foreign trade policy of the government of India allows free export of such finished products of wood."
Of course, there could be far more up the feds' sleeves regarding these searches of Gibson Guitar, but we'll never know. The Associated Press reported this past week, "Specifics of the investigation by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department have been filed under seal." It probably is filed under the heading "Eric Holder's Fast and Furious holdouts, etc."!
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