WASHINGTON (CN) - Gibson Guitar will pay $350,000 to avoid criminal charges that it illegally imported ebony from Madagascar and rosewood and ebony from India, the Justice Department said.
"Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation," the Justice Department said Monday in a statement.
"Gibson has ceased acquisitions of wood species from Madagascar and recognizes its duty under the U.S. Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin by verifying the circumstances of its harvest and export, which is good for American Business and American consumers."
Under the Lacey Act, U.S. importers cannot bring in plants and plant products that have been harvested and exported in violation of the laws of another country. The law addresses the environmental and economic impact of illegal logging around the world.
Uncle Sam claims Gibson bought "fingerboard blanks" of sawn boards of Madagascar ebony from a Madagascar exporter that did not have authority to export the blanks.
Gibson will pay a $300,000 penalty, and another $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote conservation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry, and will forfeit its claim to all of the seized wood, including $261,844 worth of Madagascar ebony.
"In light of Gibson's acknowledgement of its conduct, its duties under the Lacey Act and its promised cooperation and remedial actions, the government will decline charging Gibson criminally in connection with Gibson's order, purchase or importation of ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India, provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement, and commits no future violations of law, including Lacey Act violations," the Justice Department said.
Nashville-based Gibson is one of the largest guitar manufacturers in the world.