An ex-banker and one of Spain’s richest men has lost a battle to avoid paying a 91.7 million fine Euro fine & prison sentence for trying to smuggle a Picasso painting out of the country.
Jaime Botin’s challenge to the fine was rejected by Spain’s Supreme Court in the country’s capital Madrid yesterday (3 March).
The former president of Bankinter and brother of the late Santander Bank owner Emilio Botin, was sentenced in January 2020 by a Madrid criminal court for attempting to smuggle Picasso’s ‘The Head of a Young Woman’ out of Spain on his private yacht.
The 84-year-old tycoon was handed a three-year prison sentence and initially fined EUR 52 million which was increased to EUR 91.7 million, and the court also ordered that the state keeps the painting.
According to local media, Botin was hoping to sell the painting at the world-famous auction house Christie’s in London.
The banker who is the uncle of Santander bank chairman Ana Botin had denied the allegations saying he had only take it out of Spanish territory so he could take it to Switzerland for safekeeping.
The Spanish judiciary ruled that the painting could not be exported from the country on the basis that it is an official asset of Spanish heritage and therefore it is ‘not exportable’.
‘The Head of a Young Woman’ was painted in 1906 by Pablo Picasso and has an estimated value of EUR 26 million.
The case has been ongoing since 2012 when Botin made a request to the Ministry of Culture asking for permission to export the picture to London to be sold at Christie’s auction house, however, the request was rejected.
The Spanish supreme court has reaffirmed its support for the Ministry of Culture’s claim the painting cannot be exported due to its “obvious historical value and the fact that it is over 100 years old”.
In 2015, three years after the Ministry of Culture rejected the request, the painting was seized in Corsica in France where the authorities found it onboard the billionaire banker’s private yacht.
The painting was seized and returned to the Spanish government who then opened a legal case against the banker culminating in the latest ruling by the country’s Supreme Court against Botin’s appeal.
The painting is currently in the hands of the Reina Sofia Art Gallery in Madrid.
The Botin family had previously settled a 200 million Euro demand from the Spanish tax authorities after it was disclosed that they had undeclared bank accounts in Swtizerland.