Spanish billionaire arrested for smuggling a $29m Picasso

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Head of A Young Man, Pablo Picasso (1905). Courtesy of French Customs Office.

A Spanish billionaire has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and received a €52.4m ($58m) fine for smuggling a Picasso painting out of Spain.

Head of a Young Woman (1906), classified as a national treasure, was seized from Jaime Botin’s yacht in Corsica, France, in 2015. Prosecutors said Botín planned to sell the Picasso at auction in London.

The artwork is valued at €26m ($29m), while Botin’s net worth is understood to be $1.7bn, according to Forbes. Botin is the grandson of the founder of the Santander SA bank and is the former head of Spanish lender Bankinter.

He is understood to have defied the court order, which required that he keep the painting in Spain. Upon seizure, the painting was given to Reina Sofia museum in Madrid for safekeeping – where it will join other works by Picasso, including the world-famous Guernica (1937).

Guernica, Pablo Picasso (1937). Courtesy of Reina Sofia Museum.

The museum told Private Art Investor Head of a Young Woman was currently in storage. No future plans are known as the case is open.

Spain’s laws on protection of cultural heritage are famously strict amongst European countries. Any work of art over 100 years old and considered culturally significant can be deemed a national treasure.

According to Artnet, Botin has previously unsuccessfully applied for an export permit to move the painting.

It is unlikely Botin will have to serve any jail time as a first-time offender for a non-violent crime and with a sentence shorter than two years, said a Reuters report.