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Guitar blues: Gibson faces probe over wood smuggling allegations

The legendary guitar maker was raided by federal authorities in the US last week but denies any wrongdoing.

A Gibson Flying V electric guitar used by late rock musician Marc Bolan.
A Gibson Flying V electric guitar used by late rock musician Marc Bolan.
Image: SANG TAN/AP/Press Association Images

THE LEGENDARY GUITAR maker Gibson is under investigation by authorities in the US over allegations that it is using endangered tropical hardwoods which it is said to have illegally plundered to make its instruments.

The Times reports (subscription required) that federal agents raided Gibson’s factories in Nashville and Memphis last week and seized pallets of wood, computer hard drives and guitars as part of their investigation.

A search warrant alleged that 1,250 piece of Indian ebony were imported illegally. Charges may be brought against the company which denies any wrongdoing. It is famous for making guitars for the likes of Angus Young from AC/DC and John Lennon.

CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement that the investigation was misguided, according to the Financial Times which reports him as saying: “We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence.”

Sonic State reports him as later blasting the authorities and quotes him as saying: “We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it’s just plain wrong.”

It is the second time Gibson has been investigated. In 2009, it was investigated for the alleged use of illegally imported woods from Madagascar but on that occasion no criminal charges were brought.

Founded in 1890, Gibson guitars have been used at various stages by the likes of Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, U2′s The Edge and even Elvis Presley himself.

Here’s a young Clapton demonstrating how he gets use out of his Gibson:

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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