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Spain sends police experts to Corsica to retrieve smuggled Picasso work

This photo taken on Friday, July 31, 2015 and made available on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 by French Customs shows a 24 million-euro ($27.4 million) masterpiece by Pablo Picasso, seized from a boat cargo on July 31 from a boat cargo in Corsica, France. Corsican authorities said they were tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized 1906 painting, "Head of a Young Woman," to Switzerland. The painting is expected to return to the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (Douane Francaise via AP)

This photo taken on Friday, July 31, 2015 and made available on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 by French Customs shows a 24 million-euro ($27.4 million) masterpiece by Pablo Picasso, seized from a boat cargo on July 31 from a boat cargo in Corsica, France. Corsican authorities said they were tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized 1906 painting, "Head of a Young Woman," to Switzerland. The painting is expected to return to the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (Douane Francaise via AP)

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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