Guitar-maker Gibson denies ‘smuggling’ after US raid

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WASHINGTON, September 2, 2011 (AFP) – Gibson Guitar Corp. renewed its plea of innocence on Friday after US agents raided its Tennessee plants and seized rare ebony wood from India used to make some of the world’s most coveted guitars. “We were not engaged in smuggling,” chief executive Henry Juszkiewicz told CNN television. “We have been importing fingerboard stock on a regular basis from India for 17 years.”

It was the second raid in as many years targeting the makers of Les Paul, Epiphone and other guitars favored by such artists as B.B. King, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, U2’s The Edge, and the late Bob Marley and John Lennon.

“It was a nightmare. We had people sitting there making guitars. We had no weapons,” said Juszkiewicz, who reckoned the raids in Memphis and Nashville cost Gibson about $1 million in seized wood and documents.

Imported woods are important in guitar-making, with different species lending different tones and texture to an instrument’s sound.

While Gibson has not been criminally charged, wildlife agents reportedly suspect it might have violated a US law that forbids the import of wood exported in violation of another country’s laws.

“We’re still in the investigating stage at this