It’s been four years since businessman Jamie Botín was first accused of smuggling a $27.4 million Pablo Picasso painting out of Spain, despite its classification by the country’s government as a cultural treasure. Now things are heating up, as Botín could face jail time for allegedly attempting to sell the painting outside Spain.
On Monday, at a trial in Madrid, Botín continued to claim that he never meant to sell the work. Botín, the head of Grupo Santander, Spain’s wealthiest banking empire, now faces a four-year prison sentence and €100 million ($111 million) fine. The banker offered to put Head of a Young Woman on public display at the Fundacion Botín in Santander and abandon any future attempts to export the painting in exchange for a lesser sentence, but prosecutors were unmoved.
The painting, Head of a Young Woman (1906), was seized in 2015 from Botin’s yacht while it was docked in Corsica while en route to Switzerland. According to El País, Botín’s defense acknowledged his attempt to export the painting, but said that his intentions were misunderstood. According to the banker, Head of a Young Woman was “in transit” to Geneva for safekeeping at the Freeport warehouse complex. His lawyers also said that the artwork could not truly be claimed by the state because it has only spent six months physically within national borders since its initial purchase—Botín bought the Picasso in 1977 in London.
Prosecutors working for the Spanish state allege that Botín, whose family appears on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list, first attempted to authorize an auction of the artwork at a branch of Christie’s in 2012. (A representative for Christie’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) Negotiations between Botín and Christie’s fell through after Spain’s Board of Qualification, Valuation and Export of Spanish Historical Heritage Assets declared the piece was one of the few surviving pieces made by Picasso after his Rose Period. It was subsequently classified as non-exportable.