Costly guitars bound for Hong Kong land at Alaska schools

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage School District received a donation of high-end guitars that were bound for Hong Kong before they were confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, officials said.

The district estimated the 10 guitars have a combined value of nearly $54,500, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it intercepted the instruments in Anchorage in July 2018. The electric guitars were commercially shipped from the East Coast and declared as clothing, said Chris Andrews, an agency supervisory inspector.

The guitars feature Brazilian rosewood, which is protected by an international treaty and cannot be exported without permits.

It is rare for inspectors to intercept illegally transported Brazilian rosewood products in Anchorage, Alaska’s air cargo hub. More often they find products made from crocodile skin that do not have proper permits, Andrews said.

Fish and Wildlife officials began a civil forfeiture proceeding and the guitar dealer who shipped them eventually gave up the instruments, which range in value from $4,360 to $8,400.

“Who knows how many times they’ve been passed around by the time the dealer got hold of them,” said Andrews, who declined to name the dealer.

The Anchorage School Board accepted the donation last week to cheers and applause. Bruce Wood, the district’s fine arts director, hoisted one of the guitars over his head to show the room.

Paul Reed Smith, the instrument designer, produces handmade guitars for celebrated performers including Carlos Santana, Wood said.

“I mean, he makes the best in the world,” Wood said, “and we now have 10 of them in our district.”

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com