Spanish billionaire faces Jail and a massive fine for trying to smuggle a Picasso out of Spain

A Spanish billionaire art collector has been sentenced to 18 months in jail and fined €51m (£44m) for trying to smuggle a Picasso abroad to sell at auction.

The painter’s work Head of a Young Woman, declared a national treasure, was seized from Jaime Botín’s yacht in Corsica, France, in 2015.

Botín, 83, is the grandson of the founder of Santander bank and was its vice president until 2004. He was forced to forfeit the work. He may appeal against his sentence. However, he is unlikely to spend time behind bars as first-time offenders for non-violent crimes in Spain are often spared prison if they receive sentences of less than two years.

Prosecutors said Botín planned to sell the Picasso at auction in London.

Any piece of art more than 100 years old and deemed culturally significant enough is registered as a national treasure, meaning owners must request permission before taking it outside of the country. Botín, who bought the painting in 1977 in London, had already been denied a permit.

He argued that he had the right to take it to Geneva for safekeeping, while his lawyers said that the state could not lay claim to the painting as it had only been in Spanish territory for six months since its purchase.

But Botín was found guilty of “smuggling cultural goods” for removing the painting “from national territory without a permit”. The 1906 piece – worth an estimated €26m ($29m; £22m) – is one of the few painted by Picasso during his Gosol period, a precursor to Cubism.

The artwork is now property of the state and has been given to the Reina Sofia art museum in Madrid.

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Tony Winterburn

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