Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur called a “pharma bro” for raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000 per cent, will go on trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., today for what prosecutors are calling a Ponzi-like scheme at his former hedge fund and a drug company he once ran.
Prosecutors have accused Shkreli of lying to investors in the hedge fund and siphoning millions of dollars in assets from biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, Inc. to repay them. He has pleaded not guilty.
The trial, which will be heard by U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, is expected to last four to six weeks.
Shkreli, a boyish-looking 34, outraged patients and U.S. lawmakers by raising the price of anti-parisitic drug Daraprim to $750 US a pill, from $13.50, in 2015, when he was chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The charges that led to his arrest in December 2015 are not related to Turing, but focus on Shkreli’s management at Retrophin and the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management between 2009 and 2012.
Prosecutors said Shkreli lied about MSMB’s finances to lure investors and concealed devastating trading losses from them.
They said he paid the investors back with money stolen from Retrophin, which he founded in 2011.
High profile complicates defence
The criminal case has drawn attention in part because of Shkreli’s refusal to lay low. He has continued to court the public eye, especially through social media, sometimes complicating his defence.
At a hearing last Monday, prosecutors refused to agree to Shkreli’s request to reduce his bail by $3 million US, which he said he needs to pay taxes and legal bills, pointing to his own public boasts about his wealth.
Since his arrest, Shkreli has flaunted purchases including a Second World War-era Enigma code breaking machine, a Picasso painting and unreleased albums by Wu-Tang Clan and Lil Wayne.
In April, he offered $40,000 US to a Princeton University student who solved a mathematical proof. In May, he…