December 3, 2022

A file photo of the former pharmaceutical manager Martin Shkreli.

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Once upon a time … the same attorney negotiating a mysterious sale of a one-of-a-kind Wu Tang Clan album that fell to “Pharma Bro” criminal Martin Shkreli was caught up in legal matters surrounding that hip. Group hop and pick up.

New York attorney Peter Scoolidge identified himself Tuesday as the person who made the purchase of the Wu Tang clan record “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” liquidated by the US government at an also secret price. “

While the purchase amount was not disclosed, prosecutors said the sale covered the remainder of a nearly $ 7.4 million forfeiture sentence that Shkreli was sentenced to pay in 2018, months after he was tried in Brooklyn federal court Securities fraud was convicted.

In April, the balance of the confiscation was about $ 2.3 million – or about $ 300,000 more than Shkreli reportedly paid for the album when he bought it through an online auction in 2015.

“This was the most interesting deal I’ve ever worked on,” Scoolidge said in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday. He reiterated that the sales contract with the government prohibits disclosure of the name of the buyer – or buyers -.

What Scoolidge didn’t mention Tuesday was that he previously represented Long Island artist Jason Koza, the Shkreli, Wu Tang Clan co-founder Robert “RZA” Driggs, the album co-producers Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh and an online auction house sued in connection with illustrations used in the 174-page leather-bound book sold to Shkreli as part of the album.

Nor did Scoolidge mention that he has also represented Azzougarh in the past in connection with the same album.

But Scoolidge told CNBC on Wednesday that Azzougarh hired him in early 2018 to represent the producer on issues related to Shkreli’s expiration of the album.

“Tarik found who I was through the first trial and reached out to me,” said Scoolidge.

The lawyer also said on Wednesday that the previously secret buyer of the album will “identify himself in the future, I would say in the next 30 to 60 days”.

But Scoolidge’s involvement in album sales and his previous history of Wu Tang clan-related issues affecting the same album raise the question of whether the group or individual members of it were involved in the government’s repurchase of their album.

Scoolidge declined to comment on this possibility.

A spokesman for the Wu Tang clan did not immediately respond to inquiries to sell the album or whether members of the group were involved in the government’s recent purchase.

“Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is not just a record album of which there is only one copy.

It is also considered a work of art and very strange intellectual property.

The two-CD album, which supposedly took six years to produce, shows Cher, among others. Much of the album was produced in Marrakech, Morocco, where Azzougarh lives.

The album was sold in a silver box with a wax seal from the Wu-Tang clan and the leather-bound book with liner notes.

At the time of the announced sale of the album by the online auction house Paddle8, Azzougarh noted that the terms of sale would prevent its buyer from commercially releasing the record for decades. Many decades.

“After 88 years, the copyright, which includes public and commercial rights, automatically passes to the owner of the work,” he told Forbes in 2015.

“But it will still be his or her choice [point] to share or not share. “

Shkreli was revealed as a secret buyer of the album in a Bloomberg Businessweek article in late 2015.

Months earlier he had become notorious nationwide when, as CEO of the then pharmaceutical company Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of an anti-parasite drug for HIV patients, newborns and pregnant women by more than 5,000 percent.

Shkreli redoubled the controversy by mercilessly trolling people on Twitter, endorsing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that he would release “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” to the public for free if Trump were elected.

Shkreli, who has a history of lying, only streamed brief portions of the album online following Trump’s 2016 election victory.

Previously, in February 2016, Koza, with Scoolidge as his attorney, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Shkreli, RZA, Azzougarh and Paddle8 for alleged copyright infringement in the use of his illustrations in the album’s booklet.

Koza said his drawings were uploaded to a fan site dedicated to the group by Wu Tang clan members and then used in the book without his permission.

Wu-Tang Clan plans to release only one copy of their next album to the highest bidder.

Matt Kent | Red ferns | Getty Images

Scoolidge told Reuters at the time that Shkreli “didn’t need to know” that Koza’s art was being used without permission.

“There is no premeditation requirement for copyright infringement,” Scoolidge said at the time.

Within two months, Shkreli had been dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Scoolidge told Billboard, “We have agreed to suspend the case against Mr. Shkreli for the time being as he appears to be being compensated by other parties in the case.”

Shortly thereafter, Koza dismissed his claims against the RZA, Azzougarh and Paddle 8 voluntarily in a judicial file without giving reasons. Scoolidge signed this release notice.

Scoolidge declined to answer on Wednesday why the lawsuit was dropped.

In 2017, Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud related to two hedge funds he drove and the first pharmaceutical company he founded, known then as Retrophin.

In 2018, he was sentenced to seven years and imprisonment and ordered to forfeit a number of assets with the US government, including the Wu Tang Clan album.

After the recovery order was filed, an article in Forbes detailed the legal issues posed by the order and identified Scoolidge as an attorney for album producer Azzourgarh

This article states: “The most intriguing question that arises now is the legality of the confiscation of a work that is partially owned by Tarik ‘Cilvaringz’ Azzougarh and Robert ‘RZA’ Diggs, producers of the Wu-Tang Albums. “

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“In addition to owning 50% of the master recording, they have stipulated that the album buyer cannot sell it until 88 years after the purchase,” Forbes wrote.

The article then quoted Scoolidge.

“The contract under which the album was sold requires Mr. Shkreli to bind any new purchaser of the album to the same terms under which it was sold,” said Scoolidge.

“If and when that happens, my client [Azzougarh] Could file for recovery papers to enforce album usage restrictions. “

Scoolidge told The Wrap in March 2018, “My client’s intention is to keep the status quo with the album … that it cannot be sold commercially.”

“Whoever takes it has to adhere to the same conditions under which it was originally sold,” said the lawyer.

CNBC’s Jim Forkin contributed to this report.