Famed Flautist Loses 11 Rare Instruments to U.S. Customs

| by Allison Geller

Forget about liquids in 3-oz. containers. Virtuoso flautist Boujemaa Razgui had 11 of his prize flutes taken away from him and destroyed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at JFK Airport. And they’re not sorry.

According to customs officials, the flutes, some of which were made from bamboo, contained "exotic plant pathogens,” Foreign Policy reported.

"CBP is responsible for detecting and preventing the entry into the country of plant pests and exotic foreign animal diseases that could harm America's agricultural resources," the official said. "The fresh bamboo canes were seized and destroyed in accordance with established protocols to prevent the introduction of plant pathogens into the United States."

Razgui is devastated by the seizure of his very livelihood.

“They said this is an agriculture item,” Razgui, a Canadian citizen who performs with the Boston Camerata, told the Boston Globe. “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.”

Razgui’s bag was not opened in his presence so he had no possibility of defending himself. He was told to take up his complaint with the Department of Agriculture.

“They told me they were destroyed,” he says. “Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don’t know what to do.”

Razgui is scheduled to perform in February, and since only about 15 people in the U.S. play similar instruments, he may not even be able to get one in time. Razgui made his flutes himself with rare reeds.

The Arts ournal music blog Slipped Disc, which originally reported on the story, wrote that the music community is outraged on Razgui’s behalf.  

“I can’t think of an uglier, stupider thing for the U.S. government to do than to deprive this man of the tools of his art and a big piece of his livelihood,” said one ensemble director.

Sources: Foreign PolicyBoston GlobeSlipped Disc