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Archive for Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Swiss tipped U.S. to Polanski trip

October 21, 2009

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— 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 the arrest of Polanski, who was the subject of an international law enforcement “Red Notice.”

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. E-mails show U.S. authorities learned on Sept. 23 that Polanski was in Austria but officials doubted they could assemble an arrest warrant before Polanski had moved on to Switzerland.

Polanski was arrested Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award. 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.

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