But Gibson is still clearly rankled with the government over the case, saying it was "inappropriately targeted" and treated in the same way as drug dealers.

The criminal enforcement agreement defers prosecution for alleged violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import of illegally-sourced timber, with Gibson instead being fined US$300,000 and a community service payment of US$50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Gibson will implement a compliance programme designed to strengthen its timber import controls and procedures and will withdraw its claims to wood seized in the course of the investigation, including Madagascan ebony with a value of US$261,844.

The US Justice Department said no cirminal charges would be brought against the Nashville-based company as long as Gibson abided by the agreement and commited no future violations of the Laccey Act.

"As a result of this investigation and criminal enforcement agreement, Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation," said US assistant attorney-general Ignacia Moreno.

Gibson said it felt compelled to settle the case as the costs of proving its case at court could have run into millions of dollars and the trial could have been lengthy.

"The government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the US government and several armed law enforcement agencies, costing the tax payer millions of dollars and putting a job-creating US manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage," said Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.

"This shows the increasing trend on the part of the government to criminalise rules and regulations and treat US businesses in the same way as drug dealers are treated."

Gibson was first raided in 2009 by US federal agents as part of an investigation into use of endangered rainforest wood (ttjonline November 19, 2009). The government will return timber – Indian rosewood and ebony fingerboards seized during a second raid – to Gibson.