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Feds won’t target unwitting owners of illegal wood
NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - Owners of musical instruments made with illegally imported wood don’t face prosecution, two federal agencies say in a letter that addresses fears stirred up after a major Tennessee guitar-maker was raided.
“The federal government focuses its enforcement efforts on those who are removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them,” the U.S. Justice Department and the Interior Department wrote to U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
Blackburn and other congressional Republicans have been pressing the federal agencies to meet with them about Aug. 24 raids on Gibson Guitar Corp. factories in Memphis and Nashville where agents seized pallets of wood, guitars and computer hard drives. Gibson chief executive Henry Juszkiewicz has publicly blasted the raids as an example of the federal government risking U.S. jobs with over-zealous regulation.
The letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich and Christopher J. Mansour, director of legislative affairs at Interior, said those who “unknowingly possess” an instrument made from illegally imported materials don’t have a criminal problem.
“I am glad to see administration officials stating on the record that they won’t treat unsuspecting musicians as criminals,” Blackburn said in a statement.
An affidavit supporting the search warrant for the recent raids alleged that shipments of imported Indian ebony and rosewood were given false labels to circumvent import restrictions. Juszkiewicz has denied wrongdoing and complained that the federal government has implicated Gibson, which also manufacturer Baldwin pianos, without filing charges.
A meeting between Juszkiewicz and federal prosecutors scheduled for Wednesday was delayed, and the company also canceled a press conference the same day that was to announce a new mahogany deal with Fiji.
“I will continue to hold the Obama Administration’s feet to the fire until we receive more adequate answers,” Blackburn said.
“This bill rewards U.S. producers _ like those in the Southeast where we have large paper companies _ for harvesting the right way,” Alexander said at the time.
“I’m reviewing the Lacey Act to see if it requires changes or improvement so that Gibson and other musical-instrument companies can get the wood they need to make their instruments while at the same time preventing illegal logging,” he said in statement Wednesday.
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