WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the Department of Justice, Gibson Guitar Company today acknowledged responsibility for importing illegal wood into the United States and incurred penalties, totaling a minimum of $600,000, including the forfeiture of wood taken from the protected forests of Madagascar. Find DOJ's full press release at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-enrd-976.html
"The resolution of the first criminal investigation into violations of the amended Lacey Act is a watershed moment in global efforts to stop illegal logging around the world," said Alexander von Bismarck, who, as Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, conducted on-the-ground investigations in Madagascar in 2008 and 2009 that exposed Gibson's illegal imports and led to today's actions. "Gibson has accepted responsibility for importing illegal wood from Madagascar, and for the first time in history there are real consequences. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department's actions today give endangered forests around the world, and the people that depend on them, a fighting chance against an epidemic of illegal logging."
In the full agreement with the Justice Department, the facts clearly show that Gibson imported illegal wood, they didn't exercise due care in checking the source of the wood, and demonstrated that they were made aware in 2008 that these types of imports would violate the law - but went ahead and continued business as usual.
"This agreement shows that when the Lacey Act is allowed to work, the environment and the economy benefit," said Jameson French, CEO of Northland Forest Products and a board member of the Hardwood Federation. "The Lacey Act is a huge success story for creating jobs in America. This Criminal Enforcement Agreement should be a wake up call for companies thinking about importing illegally logged wood that the government is going to take violations of the Lacey Act very seriously."
The Lacey Act has contributed to a global 22 percent decline in illegal logging, and is considered one of the world's most successful forest conservation laws. It's also produced significant economic benefits: according to the World Bank, illegal logging robs forest nations of $10-$15 billion in revenue and deprives countries of economic opportunity in forest products manufacturing and finishing. The law has also helped create demand around the world for legal wood from sustainably managed forests, helping provide a big boost for the American forest products industry. The Lacey Act has contributed to a decline in the forest products trade deficit with China from $22 billion in 2006 before these policies were implemented to a $600 million surplus in 2010, putting thousands of Americans back to work.
"The law worked as Congress intended with Gibson having its day in court, penalties being applied and the company committing to help combat illegal logging," said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "It is time for companies and Members of Congress to stop trying to gut the Lacey Act by pushing bills that slash and burn this critical law."
"Hopefully this incident heightens awareness amongst instrument manufacturers and consumers alike about the importance of laws like the Lacey Act and taking extra measures to source instruments sustainably," said Adam Gardner, frontman of the band Guster and founder of Reverb, an organization that greens the music industry and has been active in supporting the Lacey Act.
SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency