The rare album was sold to cover Martin Shkreli’s legal fines.
Back in 2017, at the time executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals Martin Shkreli was found guilty of securities fraud in the Federal District Court of Brooklyn. Shkreli became a buzzworthy individual a couple of years prior to that when he raised the cost of one of his company’s drugs, parasitic infection-fighting Daraprim, from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. As a result of his ruling, though, he suffered a $7.4 million forfeiture, plus a $750,000 fine and seven years in federal prison. Surprisingly, that’s not the crux of this story.
The interesting part is what the Department of Justice did to cover Shkreli’s forfeiture. Despite being a very wealthy man at the time, he couldn’t pay $7.4 million out of pocket, so the DOJ seized multiple valuable items from his estate, including the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” album.
Only one copy of this album was created; the record is stored in a hand-carved nickel-silver box and includes a leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics, as well as a certificate of authenticity. This release strategy was chosen to make the album, in the words of a press release at the time, “both a work of art and an audio artifact.” The members of the Wu-Tang Clan wanted to “put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” according to Robert “RZA” Diggs from a Forbes interview in 2014.
A one-of-a-kind album by the Wu-Tang Clan, which Martin Shkreli paid $2 million for at auction, has been sold by the U.S. to cover the debt that the disgraced pharmaceutical executive owed the government. https://t.co/2Togwkqmuw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 27, 2021
Shkreli purchased the album in 2015 for around $2 million dollars, and in 2018, it was seized by the DOJ. This week, they finally found a buyer for it, and the proceeds will go toward what Shkreli owes. Neither the identity of the buyer nor how much they paid for it have been disclosed, but you can bet whoever bought it, they paid out the nose for it.
“Shkreli has been held accountable and paid the price for lying and stealing from investors to enrich himself,” Jacquelyn Kasulis, acting US attorney, said in a press release Tuesday.