U.S. government sells one-of-a-kind Wu‑Tang album forfeited by fraudster Martin Shkreli
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has sold the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which was famously purchased by "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli in 2015. A federal court seized the album in 2018, after Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud and ordered to forfeit more than $7 million in assets.
The album's buyer and price were not disclosed due to a confidentiality provision in the contract of sale, according to a government press release. (Shkreli reportedly paid $2 million for the album in 2015.) Proceeds from the sale will go toward the $7.4 million Shkreli was ordered to forfeit at his March 2018 sentencing.
The album's anonymous buyer is being represented in the deal by attorney Peter Scoolidge. In a statement provided to EW, Scoolidge said simply, "This was the most interesting deal I have ever worked on."
Wu-Tang fans have more or less given up hope of hearing Once Upon a Time in Shaolin in full, as the rap group has stipulated that the album cannot be commercially released until 2103. However, Shkreli streamed portions of the record online in 2016, fulfilling (sort of) a promise to release it if Donald Trump was elected president.
Before his sentencing, Shkreli also attempted to auction off the album on eBay, writing that he hoped to find a buyer who "makes it available for the world to hear," but was incarcerated before the sale could be completed. Wu-Tang mastermind RZA later said he wanted to buy back the album himself, but could not due to contract provisions.
Fans will now have to hold out hope that the mysterious buyer is more philanthropically inclined than Shkreli, which in theory should be a low bar to clear.