Spanish guitars made from banned wood

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The Independent Online

Police in Spain have uncovered an illegal network engaged in smuggling protected wood from Brazilian rain forests to be fashioned into high-quality guitars.

Police in Spain have uncovered an illegal network engaged in smuggling protected wood from Brazilian rain forests to be fashioned into high-quality guitars.

More than 33 tons of Dalbergia Nigra wood, known as Palosanto de Rio, was seized this week from warehouses throughout Spain, and six men were detained. The raids followed two years of investigation. "We calculate that more than 1,000 trees must have been felled," the chief of the Civil Guard's nature protection service, Carlos Alonso, said. At least 30 people were implicated in the racket, he added.

Trade in Palosanto was banned in 1992 but Spanish guitar makers have been importing it illegally ever since, smuggling it through customs camouflaged as similar, legally traded, hardwoods, police said.

The protected wood went mainly to two companies in Madrid and one in Valencia, then was sold on to guitar makers in Cuenca, east of Madrid, and Granada, heartland of flamenco and the classical guitar. The wood was even re-exported to the United States, Germany and Japan.

Classical guitars made from Palosanto could fetch more than €6,000 (£4,000), Captain Alonso said. The wood has a distinctive close texture, a double thread of filaments and "an agreeable aromatic sensation".

The traffic came to light when police detected increasing numbers of Palosanto guitars. They found huge discrepancies in declared pre-1992 stocks - which may still be traded, with a certificate - and the obvious increase in supply.

The accused face up to seven years in jail.

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