Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz says he is 'absolutely' a fan of the U.S. Lacey Act, but calls for clearer compliance guidelines, questions need for armed raids

LOS ANGELES , September 27, 2011 () – Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., says he is 'absolutely' a fan of the U.S. Lacey Act, but feels it should be more specific and contain clear guidelines on what companies need to do to comply.

Gibson made the comments in an interview with the Christian Post following armed raids on the company's factories in Nashville and Memphis relating to an investigation into the guitar marker's wood sourcing policies.

Traders and owners of musical instruments and other objects that contain exotic hardwoods are seeking seeking clarity on the Lacey Act, which bans imports of environmentally threatened plants and animals and was expanded to cover wood products in 2008.

Juszkiewicz said Gibson had been active in conservation and environmental causes, and acknowledged that there was corruption in the supply chain, often involving poor people in very difficult political situations. He said if government action such as the Lacey Act was needed to improve the situation, then he was "absolutely a fan."

But he said any law that imposes Draconian penalties must make it clear what people have to do to comply. Juszkiewicz added that the law should continue, but he would like to see it amended it to clarify thre requirements that individuals and companies must meet.

Juszkiewicz questioned whether agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needed to carry weapons and wear bullet proof vests in the raids. "There is a time when you have to do that – drug busts, for instance...but, c'mon, not a guitar factory; Jeez, we're not armed," he said.

Juszkiewicz said the raid was made because the government had alleged that Gibson used the wrong tariff code to import wood from India. He noted that the same code had been in use for 17 years, and if a different code was now needed, the issue was import/export documentation rather than criminal.

"Is a paperwork issue something that should trigger a SWAT team with automatic weapons?" Juszkiewicz questioned. He noted that the raids had also resulted in the confiscation of half a million dollars of product, downtime at the factory, and putting the business at risk. He suggested that the use of force had been totally inappropriate, and said a law that had been intended to protect the environment was now being used for a different purpose.

Juszkiewicz added that Gibson obtains the highest level of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval possible, involving independent third-party audits of all its wood and procurement systems.

The primary source of this article is the Christian Post, Washington DC, on Sept. 26, 2011.

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