Billionaire Banker Jaime Botin Gets an 18-Month Prison Sentence and a $58 Million Fine for Smuggling a Picasso Out of Spain

Banker stashed the Picasso on his yacht despite being denied an export permit.

Members of the French and Spanish Police with the seized Picasso, Head of a Young Woman (1906). Courtesy Douane Fraçaise.

Jaime Botin, a Spanish billionaire and member of the dynasty that has run Santander SA bank for more than 100 years, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison and received a €52.4 million ($58 million) fine for smuggling a celebrated work by Pablo Picasso out of Spain.

Botin, who was formerly head of Spanish lender Bankinter SA, was found guilty of contraband in culturally important goods. He was also forced to surrender the artwork itself, Picasso’s Head of a Young Woman, which is valued at €26 million ($29 million). (He has a net worth of $1.7 billion, according to Forbes,)

The Picasso was seized from Botin’s yacht in Corsica, after he took it there in defiance of court orders mandating that he keep it in Spain. Now, the painting is in the custody of the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, until further notice.

According to a Reuters report, Botin, 83, has ten days to appeal the decision. He is unlikely to serve the prison time ordered due to his age and the fact that he is a first-time offender, the report notes.

The yacht Adix, owned by Spanish Santander banking group and flying a British flag, sails off Testa beach on August 4, 2015, in Pianottoli Caldarello, Corsica, four days after French customs seized a Picasso on board considered a national treasure by Spain. Photo: Pascal Pochard Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images.

Spain’s laws on the protection of cultural heritage are said to be among the strictest in Europe. Any work of art older than 100 years is considered a national treasure and thus requires an export permit. Botin applied for an export permit for the Picasso, but was rejected.

Botin acquired the Picasso in 1977, Bloomberg reported, citing UK website Artlyst. It hails from the artist’s pre-Cubist “Rose” period.

Spanish authorities seem to have been observing Botin for some time. They had long suspected him of planning to sell the painting, according to Bloomberg. In 2012, he authorized Christie’s auction house to seek an export permit from Madrid to London, Spanish judge Elena Gonzalez concluded in her ruling.

Internal email at Christie’s presented as evidence during Botin’s trial show the painting was being billed as one of the top draws at an auction scheduled for February 2013.

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