WASHINGTON — U.S. customs officials last week destroyed 11 rare flutes made by a respected Canadian musician who was returning home via New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. But the agency isn't apologizing for the incident — it says the flutes were an ecological threat.
Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection identified the instruments of flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui as agricultural products that risked introducing "exotic plant pathogens" in to the United States, a customs official said.
As a result, officials destroyed them without contacting Razgui.
Razgui said there are around 15 people in the U.S. with such flutes, which means acquiring one for his upcoming performances in February may be impossible. "I'm not sure what to do," he told The Boston Globe.
"They said this is an agriculture item," Razgui continued. "I fly with them in and out all the time and this is the first time there has been a problem. This is my life. … This is horrible."
Razgui, who has worked with numerous U.S. ensembles, said he hand-crafted each instrument from difficult-to-find reeds. "Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.," he said.
The CBP official said Razgui's luggage was unclaimed and added that "fresh bamboo is prohibited from entering the United States to prevent the introduction of exotic plant pathogens."