Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli indicted, questions raised about rare Wu-Tang album purchase

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Updated on 12-17-15 by Parker Hall: Updated to reflect the fact that Martin Shkreli has now been indicted by the SEC for securities fraud.

A few weeks back, we reported that a Wu-Tang Clan album called Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, considered to be the rarest album in the world, was recently purchased by price-gouging pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Shkreli paid $2 million dollars at an auction by Paddle8 for the album. But where did the money actually come from? According to new reports, the Feds want to know.

The CEO and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, Shkreli became infamous for buying the manufacturing license for the generic AIDS drug Daraprim and unapologetically raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. The move outraged virtually the entire online community, putting Shkreli in the spotlight, and casting him as something of a villainous drug baron.

His alleged villainy may run even deeper than we thought, however: Shkreli has now been indicted for securities fraud for stealing stock from a company he was ousted from, Retrophin, Inc. In addition, lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s office reportedly said at a press conference that they are “not aware” of where the funds to purchase the priceless Wu-Tang album may have come from, according to a tweet from a New York Times reporter.

Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was a project conceived by Wu-Tang Clan producer Tarik “Civalringz” Azzougarth and recorded over the course of eight years. Only one physical copy of the record was made, and the purchase of the record came with a contract the bars the buyer from publicly releasing the material for 88 years.

A 31-track record that features all surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan and special guests, it is the most expensive single disc ever sold. The album came in a custom silver-plated jewelry box with a CD inside, as well as a pair of $55,000 custom Wu-Tang Clan-branded PMC MB2-XBD speakers on which to enjoy it.

The album was originally purchased anonymously in spring of this year, with details surrounding the sale not finalized until this fall.

The CEO confirmed that he was indeed the purchaser via Twitter, re-posting the Bloomberg article which first broke the news, along with a snarky remark aimed towards other Wu-TangClan fans.

This is not Shkreli’s first time purchasing extremely rare music memorabilia, having previously bought Kurt Cobain’s Visa card at another auction by Paddle8. The CEO reportedly uses the card as a parlor trick — pulling it out of his wallet to impress onlookers when purchasing meals and other items.

According to Shkreli, he hasn’t even listened to Once Upon A Time In Shaolin yet, saying in an interview, “I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that, but for now, I think I’m going to kind of save it for a rainy day.” It appears to be raining for Shkreli now.

Though they did pen C.R.E.A.M. (“cash rules everything around me”), and ultimately did sell the record to Shkreli, the Wu-Tang Clan has its limits with regards to who they wish to do business with. In an emailed statement regarding the sale of the record, and the now-public identity of its purchaser, Wu-Tangfounding member RZA had this to say:

“The sale of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Skhreli’s [sic] business practices came to light. We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.”

So, despite the now-added publicity to a loathed (and now indicted) CEO, the sale of the world’s rarest record did do a little good. As for Shkreli’s indictment, we’ll be following this story as more details arise, so stay tuned.

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