On Tuesday, the United States government auctioned off a rare Wu-Tang album to an unknown buyer for an undisclosed amount.
According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York, the sole copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin that had previously belonged to convicted hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli had been ordered to be forfeited as a substitute asset to “satisfy the outstanding balance owed on the $7.36 million forfeiture money judgment.” Shkreli bought the rare album from the iconic rap group for nearly $2 million back in 2015 but it now belongs to an anonymous buyer.
“Through the diligent and persistent efforts of this Office and its law enforcement partners, Shkreli has been held accountable and paid the price for lying and stealing from investors to enrich himself,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis “With today’s sale of this one-of-a-kind album, his payment of the forfeiture is now complete.”
The Album, as it’s been frequently referenced, includes “a hand-carved nickel-silver box as well as a leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics and a certificate of authenticity. The Album is subject to various restrictions, including those relating to the duplication of its sound recordings,” the statement notes.
Shkreli was convicted for securities fraud back in 2017. In addition to forfeiting The Album, he was also ordered to serve seven years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. A month prior to his conviction, Shkreli announced he would be auctioning off the album himself but ultimately had no success. In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Wu-Tang member RZA talked about his attempts at getting his hands back on the coveted piece but contractual obligations prevented him from doing so.
“It was hard for me to sell that album,” he said at the time, “Because I wanted it to be on my living room table. When it was finally completed and everything was sent out, I was like, ‘This would be great in the Wu mansion.’ Whoever comes by here can see this piece of art sitting in my living room. I argued with the people that invested money to get the project on its way, but they wanted [their investment] back. So it would’ve cost me more than the selling price in reality, because of the deficit that was already incurred.
“Also, everybody is like, ‘This ain’t for you. That’s even more selfish than selling it,’” RZA added. “They were talking to me to let that thing go.”