Spanish police fly to Corsica to retrieve Picasso work

AP , Tuesday 11 Aug 2015

A team of Spanish police experts flew to the French island of Corsica on Tuesday to retrieve a masterpiece by Pablo Picasso that was smuggled out of Spain, where it is considered a national treasure.

A spokesman for Spain's Civil Guard said four police experts in national heritage and several Culture Ministry officials flew to recover the painting, "Head of a Young Woman," which is valued at 24 million euros ($26 million). The officer said they expect to return with the painting later Tuesday.

The work is owned by Spanish banker Jaime Botin, brother of the late Emilio Botin, former head of the Santander banking group.

The National Court ruled in May that it could not be taken out of Spain, backing an earlier decision by the Culture Ministry. The ruling is under appeal before the Supreme Court.

The officer said they expect to return with the painting later Tuesday.

He was speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with police regulations.

On arrival, the painting is to be taken to Madrid's Reina Sofia Museum, museum officials said.

Corsican authorities said in a statement Aug. 4 that they had been tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized painting to Switzerland.

They said the oil painting, which comes from the Cubist master's "pink period" and features a woman with long black hair, was seized July 31 when the captain was unable to produce a certificate.

On the boat, authorities say, a document was found in Spanish confirming that the work was of "cultural interest" and was banned from leaving Spain, Picasso's homeland.

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