Malagasy wood for guitars: Gibson fined

Illegally logged wood near the Masoala National Park in Madagascar. Illegally logged wood near the Masoala National Park in Madagascar

Aug 15, 2012

Partial success in the Gibson scandal: Gibson Guitars have agreed to pay a fine of $300,000 as well as another $50,000 to environmental organisations. The ebony which had been seized by government authorities will remain confiscated.

Partial success in the Gibson scandal: Gibson Guitars have agreed to pay a fine of $300,000 as well as another $50,000 to environmental organisations. The ebony which had been seized by government authorities will remain confiscated. 

The payment will end a three-year long legal dispute which Gibson had turned into a veritable media campaign against alleged abuse of government power. Gibson's CEO, Henry Juszkiewick, spent months complaining vociferously on radio, TV and in newspapers against the authorities' investigations and even engaged the right-wing Tea Party.

Juszkiewick has objected to the so-called Lacey Act, a US federal law which prohibits trade in and import of wild animals and wood from illegal sources. He has claimed that the law endangers US jobs and free trade. With his campaign, he tried not just to influence the court case against Gibson but to have the law on which it is based revoked. He has failed in those endeavours.

Environmental NGOs Global Witness and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigated logging for ebony, pallisander and rosewood in Malagasy rainforests in cooperation with Madagascar National Parks, National Environment and Forest Observatory and the Forest Administration of Madagascar. They compiled a comprehensive report about tropical hardwood logging and the intransparent supply chains “Investigation into the Global Trade in Malagasy Precious Woods: Rosewood, Ebony and Palisander“

The trail can be followed back to a mafia of unscrupulous tropical hardwood dealers, including the Société Thunam Roger and the German timber merchant Theodor Nagel, before it reacheds Gibson in the US. Those timber merchants have for years been responsible for illegal logging in rainforests, including National Parks in Madagascar, profiting from the sale of precious wood. Hundreds of containers are piled up at ports and in stores, filled with endangered ebony and pallisander. The firm Theodor Nagel has recently declared bankruptcy.

Gibson's purchases thus linked guitars to the destruction of tropical rainforests. Most musicians, however, will not want a guitar with fingerboard blanks made from precious wood from the illegal plunder of rainforests. 35,000 people worldwide signed a Rainforest Rescue petition „Guitar maker Gibson wants to dismantle nature protection“.

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