Picasso ‘art-smuggler’ Jaime Botin denied entry to NZ yet his yacht’s in Auckland

A billionaire banker sentenced to three years’ prison for smuggling a $44 million Picasso painting out of Spain has been refused entry to New Zealand – but the yacht he attempted the crime on floats in Auckland.

Jamie Botin was convicted of trying to smuggle the Pablo Picasso painting Head of a Young Woman he owned outside of Spanish waters on his 65m yacht Adix in 2015.

The 84-year-old is part of the Santander banking dynasty and has a personal fortune of $2.5 billion. His niece is currently chairwoman of Spain’s largest bank, which his great-grandfather founded.

Botin’s initial sentence in January 2020 was doubled to three years and he was fined $154m for the crime, but he appealed and still walks free as the case continues.

The yacht Adix which Botin used to take Head of a Young Woman out of Spanish waters, with the alleged intention to sell, now floats in Auckland’s Silo Park marina.

The yacht first docked in New Zealand at Opua, Bay of Islands, in December last year and has since sailed down to Auckland to be moored alongside the superyacht of another European billionaire Jim Ratcliffe – who owns Ineos Team UK.

A source in the Auckland marine industry familiar with Adix said Botin himself anticipated he would be able to join his infamous yacht in New Zealand.

“I know the owner is still in court about this Picasso picture, fighting it,” the industry source said.

“Yeah, he did try and come [to New Zealand]. Can’t get in because of the restrictions. I think the beginning of this year he was supposed to come, January. He just loves sailing.

“I think it’s the fourth time the boat is down in New Zealand in its life. The two captains, they both rotate, there’s a Kiwi captain on board now. They cruise around the world all the time.”

The Ministry of Health confirmed Adix was granted permission to enter New Zealand under a “refit and repair” maritime border exemption in November last year.

Immigration NZ advised they issued visas to 11 crew members of Adix and a 12th crew member on board was a New Zealand citizen.

The refit and repair maritime border exemption provides criteria for yachts to enter New Zealand, along with any international crew, provided they spend $50,000 in maintenance work at a local marine yard.

Botin, whose nephew Marcelino is the principal designer for American Magic America’s Cup team, was originally charged with taking the Picasso painting out of Spain in 2015 by the Spanish Government, which had imposed a national protection order on the painting for its significance to Spanish heritage.

Spain has some of the strictest heritage laws in Europe and authorities can deem a work of art more than a century old a national treasure for its cultural importance.

Spanish authorities had already begun to monitor Botin in 2012 after Christie’s auction house asked for an export licence to put Head of a Young Woman up for sale.

The Spanish Government refused the licence, also forbidding Botin to take the painting outside the country.

However, in 2015 Botin’s son Alfonso took Adix to the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Working from a tip-off, French customs officials boarded the yacht in Calvi on the French island of Corsica, found the painting packaged up and seized it.

Prosecutors subsequently alleged Botin intended to take the painting to Switzerland to sell. It was taken to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, where it remains.

Botin claimed he was transporting Head of a Young Woman to Geneva for safe storage and that the painting was rarely ever on Spanish soil during his ownership anyway.

The banker acquired the Picasso in 1977 and it has hung in the Adix yacht for many decades.

Head of a Young Woman is from Picasso’s pink period and one of only a few existing paintings he painted in 1906 in the village of Gosol in Catalonia.

At one point, a floating art collection adorned the Adix including works by JMW Turner and Camille Corot.

Botin bought Adix in 1990 off Australian industrialist Alan Bond, who famously bankrolled his country’s successful challenge for the America’s Cup in 1983.

Adix had been built in Mallorca in 1984 and christened Jessica by her original Argentine owner. Bond bought her a few years later and changed her name to XXXX, which is a brand of beer he owned in Queensland at the time.

Aside from his appeal case and inability to enter New Zealand, it is not all bad news for Botin, who in January was awaiting one of the largest individual dividends in the history of Spanish banking.

He is set to receive $17.5m from his shares in his Santander family bank.

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