A team of Spanish police experts has flown to the French island of Corsica to retrieve a masterpiece by Pablo Picasso which was smuggled out of Spain.

The Head of a Young Woman is considered a national treasure in Spain and is valued at €24 million.

Four police experts in national heritage and several culture ministry officials have flown to France to recover the work, a spokesman for Spain's Civil Guard said. They expect to return with the painting later today.

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

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.

Corsican authorities said in a statement on August 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 on July 31 when a boat captain was unable to produce a certificate.

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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