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Gibson Guitar Settles Criminal Case Over Exotic Wood Imports

Gibson guitars on sale in New York City. i i

Gibson guitars on sale in New York City. Jemal Countess/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Gibson guitars on sale in New York City.

Gibson guitars on sale in New York City.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

"After years maintaining innocence," as Nashville Public Radio says, Gibson Guitar Corp. has agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty, donate $50,000 to a conservation fund and give up its claims to ebony and rosewood worth nearly $262,000 to avoid being criminally prosecuted for importing exotic woods.

NPR's Carrie Johnson tells our Newscast Desk that "it's a crime to bring endangered plants and wood into the U.S. if the materials are protected under the laws of other countries. Under the terms of a deal announced today by the Justice Department, Gibson also promises to beef up its compliance programs."

The Justice Department's moves against Gibson in 2011, which included a raid on the company's factory and seizure of some ebony and rosewood, turned the guitar company into "the poster child for the Republican Party's campaign against burdensome regulations," as The Hill has written. Gibson hired lobbyists to make its case on Capitol Hill.

In a statement, Justice says:

"In light of Gibson's acknowledgement of its conduct, its duties under the Lacey Act and its promised cooperation and remedial actions, the government will decline charging Gibson criminally in connection with Gibson's order, purchase or importation of ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India, provided that Gibson fully carries out its obligations under the agreement, and commits no future violations of law, including Lacey Act violations."

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