Eighteen months in jail and a fine of more than 52 million euros. It is the conviction of former banker Jaime Botín, 83, whom the head of the Criminal Court number 27 of Madrid considers author of a crime of art smuggling. The former former president of Bankinter may appeal and will appeal to the Provincial Court of Madrid the sentence that condemns him for taking from Spain without permission ‘Head of a young woman’, a work that Pablo Pablo Picasso painted in 1906, owned by Botín, valued at 26 , 2 million euros, and that in 2015 I try to bring to Switzerland. The ruling also determines that the painting no longer belongs to Botín and becomes part of the State’s assets. It imposes a fine of 52.4 million euros on the Santander banker, twice the value of the piece.
The ruling considers it proven that ‘Head of a young woman’ left the Spanish territory by order of the ex-banker, despite the express prohibition of the Ministry of Culture, which classified Picasso’s fabric as “inexportable” as it is a “unique” work, and of “extraordinary historical value.”
The judge has not applied in her sentence the request for penalty from the prosecutor and the state attorney, who at the trial held last November requested four years in prison for Botín and a fine of 100 million euros. They also asked that the sailboat ‘Adix’, in which Picasso’s fabric traveled from Spain to Corsica from Valencia, presumably on the way to Switzerland, also belong to the Public Administration.
Booty who had already tried to sell the painting in London, said at the trial that his intention was to take it to Switzerland to leave it there on deposit “for security reasons.” He insisted that the work was on his British flag yacht, but that he was in a “transit” situation in the port of Calvi, in Corsica.
It was December 5, 2012 when Jaime Botín authorized Christie’s Iberica to try to sell the painting at auction. The British parent firm requested the relevant permits from Culture, given that it was “a property belonging to Spanish heritage”, “obvious historical-artistic interest,” according to the prosecutor. The Board of Qualification, Valuation and Export of Spanish Historical Heritage Assets, an advisory body dependent on Culture, unanimously proposed the refusal to export, a refusal that the owner of the work did not accept.
Botín appealed the refusal of Culture before the National Court, but lost the claim and appealed to the Supreme. The high court has not yet ruled, and its ruling will be crucial for the defense of the former banker. His lawyers believe that if the essence of the case is still being questioned, they should have waited for the decision of the Supreme. A reasoning that Elena Raquel González Bayón did not consider, the judge who understood that there were enough elements to move forward with the cause.
Paloma Esteban, author of the report that supported the decision, summarized during the trial the reasons for the rejection of Culture: «Head of a young woman belongs to the Gósol period (referring to the summer that the painter spent in that Catalan town in 1906), fundamental for the cubism. And there is no museum dedicated to Picasso in Spain, and I would say that in Europe, a canvas of similar characteristics ».
According to the indictment, Botín was the owner of ‘Young Woman’s Head’ and originally had it at his home in Pozuelo de Alarcón, near Madrid. In addition, he contacted Christie’s, an auction firm that had already scheduled a session with the inclusion of the painting in February 2013.
Botín decided to cancel the transfer of the painting to Switzerland when he learned that the French customs authorities wanted to charge him taxes, considering that it was an export, to which the former banker refused to avoid breaking the Culture ban.
«Despite being fully aware of the total and patent express administrative prohibition in force, the defendant moved the painting to the ‘Adix’ yacht of his real property, when in June he was docked at the port of Valencia, in order to illegally take him out of our country, instructing his captain, Paul Frederick Goss, to hide the presence of the work on the ship from the Authorities, ”said the Prosecutor’s Office.
The painting was intervened by French customs on July 30, 2015, knowing that Botín was going to transfer it by plane. The fabric was delivered to Spain and has since been deposited in the Reina Sofía National Museum.
Jaime Botín has opened another trial, for the alleged fraud to the Treasury of one million euros when registering a plane in Portugal, even though its operations center was in Spain. The Prosecutor asks for two years and three months in jail.