Swiss Tipped U.S. to Polanski Trip

Polish-born director Roman Polanski attends the inauguration of Paris' new memorial to the Holocaust in a Jan. 25, 2005 photo. Much like the penniless orphan in his new film, "Oliver Twist," Roman Polanski says he knows that in life "the worst thing isn't a hard bed or hunger, but having no parents."
Swiss authorities set in motion the arrest of fugitive director Roman Polanski in his decades-old child sex case as he traveled to the country last month, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

A series of e-mails obtained under a public records request show the Swiss Federal Office of Justice sent an urgent fax to the U.S. Office of International Affairs on Sept. 22 stating Polanski was expected in Zurich. The director was to be feted at a film festival, and Swiss officials wanted to know if the U.S. would be submitting a request for Polanski's arrest.

It took little sleuthing to figure out Polanski would be in Zurich - the film festival had a Web site promoting its upcoming tribute to the "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" director. The new details again raise the question of why Switzerland decided to go after Polanski now, even though the 76-year-old director was a frequent visitor to that nation, where he owns an Alpine chalet.

After receiving the tip, federal officials alerted the Los Angeles district attorney's office, which immediately began drafting an arrest warrant.

Polanski was arrested Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival. He has been battling extradition ever since and on Tuesday suffered a serious setback when Switzerland's top criminal court rejected his appeal to be released from prison, citing the "high" risk that the director would try to flee again.

A Sept. 25 e-mail from the Office of International Affairs to the district attorney's office shows U.S. authorities seemed confident Polanski would not be released.

"Generally, Switzerland does not release fugitives sought for extradition," the e-mail states. "The default in Switzerland is that a fugitive will be detained until s/he is either extradited or determined by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to be non-extraditable."

Polanski's offers of bail, house arrest and electronic monitoring failed to sway the tribunal. Even his chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad was brushed aside as insufficient collateral to guard against Polanski fleeing the country.

"The appellant has already once in 1978 eluded American criminal proceedings by traveling to Europe," the Federal Criminal Court said in its 17-page verdict, adding that Polanski's transfer to the U.S. could also cause family trauma and cost investors millions of dollars in losses.

Polanski was accused of plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977 and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse and fled amid a legal dispute over his sentence.

By Bradley S. Klapper