Billionaire collector Jaime Botín, the former vice chairman of Santander Bank and the largest shareholder of the Spanish bank Bankinter S.A., was sentenced to eighteen months in prison and fined $58 million for attempting to smuggle Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Young Woman, 1906, out of Spain in 2015.
The Spanish National Court declared the painting, an early work from Picasso’s Gósol period that is valued at $29 million, a national treasure in May 2015 and, under the country’s strict heritage laws, required its owner to obtain an export permit to take it out of the country. Botín was denied an export permit for the Picasso, which he acquired in 1977, in 2012.
In 2015, the collector reportedly arranged for the work to be driven by his chauffer from Madrid to Valencia, where his yacht was bound for Corsica, France. Soon thereafter, French police confiscated the painting from the boat in the waters near Corsica. Once seized, the canvas was moved to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.
The defense argued that Botín did not know that sailing in international waters in a vessel registered to Botín constituted exporting the work. The judge ruled: “Despite being fully aware of the administrative ban, the defendant transferred the painting to [his yacht], docked in Valencia, with the purpose of removing [the painting] from Spain.”
Despite the conviction, first-time offenders in Spain who receive sentences of less than two years for nonviolent crimes are often spared prison, and it is unlikely that eighty-three-year-old Botín will serve time.