A Spanish court has on Wednesday indicted one of the country's top bankers on charges of trafficking in art after attempting to illegally export a valuable Picasso painting.
Spanish banker Jaime Botin, the brother of the late president of the Banco Santander, Emilio Botin, was allegedly nabbed by police while trying to illegally export Picasso's "Head of Young Girl" canvas valued at 26 million euro ($29 million), a court statement said.
The 1906 painting was intercepted by Spanish Civil Guard officers on July 31, 2015, on board a yacht moored at the French port of Corsica.
It is alleged the painting was being transported out of Spain toward Switzerland.
Police impounded the artwork, returned it to Spain and deposited the masterpiece at Madrid's Reina Sofia museum for its temporary custody.
The Spanish court's indictment, which can be appealed, states that on Dec. 5, 2012, Christie's Iberica Auction House, acting on behalf of Botin, requested an export permit for the artwork which at the time was housed at the banker's residence.
It is alleged the intention was to sell the painting through the London auction house, but Spain's authorities refused the export permit, arguing the work's artistic value.
The General Directorate of Fine Arts of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture agreed in 2012, as a precautionary measure, on the "non-exportability" of this Picasso considered "unique" by the heads of Spain's historical patrimony and of "exceptional importance" by Madrid's Reina Sofia museum.
The "Head of Young Woman" was painted by Picasso in Gosol (Lerida, Spain) at the age of 24 and there is no similar painting of the Malaga-born artist in Spain.
The indictment considers the banker took the painting out of Spain with the intention of selling it at a time when the Spanish administration had forbidden its export, a ban which the banker allegedly ignored.