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Wu-Tang Clan, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Image via Department of Justice

Look inside Wu-Tang Clan’s fabled $2m album, courtesy of the US government

New images of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin — the album once owned by ‘pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli — have surfaced following a change in ownership

Back in July last year, Wu-Tang Clan’s one-of-a-kind album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was sold by the US government for an estimated $4 million, following its forfeiture by Martin Shkreli (AKA the ‘pharma bro’ once named America’s “most hated man”). Now, the saga continues with the release of new photos showing the legendary record-slash-art-piece.

Shared by the US government thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, documents including the photos and bill of sale were obtained by Buzzfeed News this week (January 5).

Across 54 images, Wu-Tang Clan fans (or anyone interested in what an album valued in the millions actually includes) can view the current condition of the album, which is housed in a nickel silver box, inside a cedarwood box, covered in black cow leather with velvet lining.

The art piece conceived by the group also includes a 175-page leather-bound lyric book and a gold-leafed certificate of authenticity. Sadly — for those of us intrigued by the extortionate objects that rich fraudsters such as Shkreli spend their money on — images of the actual CDs, song titles, and lyrics are redacted, with the government citing “trade secrets”.

These “trade secrets” also shroud the exact price that the government raked in when it sold the album to an undisclosed buyer in 2021. The buyer was later revealed to be the cryptocurrency group PleasrDAO, which has claimed it paid $4 million in cryptocurrency via an intermediary.

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was originally sold to Shkreli for $2 million back in 2015, after he rose to infamy for hiking the price of a critical Aids drug that same year. In 2018 however, the hedge fund manager was ordered by a federal judge to hand over assets totalling $7.36 million, including the album, after he was found guilty of defrauding investors.

The newly-surfaced documents also reveal that the new owners will have to abide by the same terms as Shkreli when he bought the album (meaning that they can display the box but not make copies of the music itself).

“Under no circumstances will they allow the assets to revert to Martin Shkreli,” the documents add. “Nor shall Purchasers allow Martin Shkreli to receive any benefit, direct or indirect, from the sale of the Assets, other than the benefit conferred by the Forfeiture Orders applying the proceeds of the sale to his outstanding forfeiture money judgement.”

Take a look inside the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin art piece via the documents shared by the US government here.