Will Martin Shkreli Have To Hand Over His Wu-Tang Clan Album?

Photo credit: REUTERS/Bill Auth

A news conference announcing federal securities fraud charges against former hedge fund boss Martin Shkreli took an unusual turn on Thursday with a question about a $2 million copy of a Wu-Tang Clan album he bought in May.

Shkreli, 32, had bragged to Bloomberg Businessweek about buying the only copy of the popular New York-based Hip-Hop collective’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, drawing ire from music fans around the world when he said he had no plans to listen to it.

He spent the $2 million to “keep it from people,” he said.
Wu-Tang Clan had produced the record as a limited-edition album, which it then put up for auction.  On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Robert Capers told reporters, “We’re not aware of where he got the funds that he raised for the Wu-Tang Clan album.”
Capers’ comments immediately spurred hopeful posts on social media from music lovers that the album might be forfeited by the Turing chief executive officer during his federal prosecution.

Twitter lit up with reaction to the arrest of Shkreli, who is even more reviled for boosting drug prices than he is for hiding the album. Shkreli’s critics used the hashtag #Karma to voice their support for the federal prosecution and hope that the Wu-Tang clan album could be heard across the world.

“Dear US attorney: all we want for Christmas is that Wu-Tang album – everyone,” wrote Twitter user @cbk_chi.
“If the government seizes the Wu-Tang album, does it run another auction, or just release it for free as part of our cultural patrimony?” asked @Matt_Levine.
“It would be the best twist ever if the Library of Congress ended up owning the Wu Tang album,” tweeted journalist Ryan Teague Beckwith.

Wu-Tang Clan Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin

Responding to questions on social media about the status of the album, the Federal Bureau of Investigation tweeted later on Thursday that it had not yet seized it, or any of Shkreli’s assets.

“#Breaking no seizure warrant at the arrest of Martin Shkreli today, which means we didn’t seize the Wu-Tang Clan album,” the FBI’s New York office tweeted.

Whether authorities plan to reclaim the album through asset forfeiture in the future was not immediately clear, but Wu-Tang has already distanced themselves from Shkreli.
“The sale of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Shkreli’s business practices came to light,” said group member RZA, whose fellow Wu-Tang Clan members include Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. “We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.”
But even if the album is freed for the people, some on social media have questioned if they’d listen.

“Maybe the Wu-Tang album is cursed and brings bad luck to all who listen to it?” joked @hunterwalk.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Bernard Orr and Jonathan Oatis)