Pablo Picasso's "Head of a Young Woman"
Pablo Picasso's "Head of a Young Woman" French Customs Office

Dark and difficult times lie ahead of wealthy billionaire Jaime Botin. The man of Spanish origin was sentenced to 18 months of prison for a rather unusual act—the discovery of a stolen Picasso painting in his luxury yacht.

The Picasso painting, which is a national treasure in Spain, made its way to Botin’s yacht under mysterious circumstances. Despite repeated denials, the Spanish billionaire had to surrender the paintings. Currently, the man has two heavy penalties awaiting him—prison term and an exorbitant fine of $58 million.

It is learned that Botin planned to whisk it away and eventually sell it off at an auction in London. The painting, “Head of a Young Woman” is valued at $ 26 million and evoked panic on its disappearance. A quick search by customs officials followed and was incidentally found onboard Botin’s yacht on the French Island of Corsica.

During one such routine checks, the French authorities were shocked to find the missing piece on the wealthy banker’s yacht, especially so because they also uncovered a document which confirms that the prized possession was of cultural interest and was prohibited from leaving Spain without permission—something which Botin did not possess. On Thursday, the ownership of the coveted painting was transferred from Botin to the state as per the ruling by Madrid’s High Court.

On the upside, Botin is likely to escape jail time under Spanish law related to sentencing of less than two years owing to his age and his repute as a first-time offender.

Botin served as a chairman of Bankinter between 1986 to 2002. What’s interesting to note is that Botin was repeatedly informed years ago –back in2012—by auctioneer Christie's that it was imperative to obtain official permission to go ahead with the century-old painting in a London auction.

Yet, Botin overlooked the warning and decided to take the painting to the Spanish port city of Valencia. It is learned that Botin instructed his yacht's captain to “hide it from authorities”.

Upon being questioned about how the painting had left Spanish territory, Botin explained he had been taking it to Switzerland for safekeeping.

The painting with an origin dating back to Cubist master's “pink period”, features a woman with black cascading waves. The iconic Pablo’s painting was seized when the boat's captain failed to produce a certificate that supported Botin’s right to possess the painting.

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