Thursday 16 January 2020 7:00 pm

Ex-banker lands €52m fine for smuggling Picasso painting from Spain

A former Spanish bank boss has been slapped with a €52m (£44m) fine after he was found guilty of smuggling a Picasso painting abroad that had been designated national treasure.

Jaime Botin, a scion of a famous Spanish banking family and a former chairman of Bankinter, was handed an 18-month prison sentence that his age – 82 – means he is unlikely to serve.

The painting, called Head of a Young Woman, is a work by Pablo Picasso from 1906 and is valued at €26m. The Spanish government had said the painting could not be exported because of its significance.

Yet the valuable work was found on board Botin’s yacht in 2015 during a search by customs officials in the French island of Corsica. Spanish prosecutors said Botin was attempting to sell the painting, a charge he denied.

Today’s verdict, which Botin can appeal, means the Spanish government has become the owner of the painting. From Picasso’s early “pink period”, it is regarded as culturally important.

Botin’s father and brother, both called Emilio, have been chairmen of Spain’s Santander bank. His niece Ana is the current chairman.

The ruling released today by Madrid’s High Court said that despite being told by auctioneer Christie’s in 2012 that he would need a special permit to sell the painting, Botin took it to Valencia and order his yacht’s captain to hide it.

Three years later it was found in the cabin of his yacht in Corsica in 2015. Botin admitted that it had left Spanish territory, but argued he had planned to take it to Switzerland to keep it safe.