Polanski probably settled on France because he holds French citizenship and according to its treaty with the U.S., France can refuse to extradite its own citizens, unlike Britain, where legal experts speculate he would have been taken into custody sooner. But the Polish-born director hasn't stayed home all these years; not only does he travel to Switzerland frequently, he even has a home there in Gstaad, where he spent most of this summer working on his new movie "The Ghost."
It seems that authorities wanted to take advantage of the publicity surrounding the Zurich Film Festival, where Polanski was going to receive a lifetime achievement award, and a re-awakened interest in the case due to last year's Sundance documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," to get their man at last. Yet in January, Polanski's victim, now a 45-year-old mother of three living in Hawaii, filed a request that the D.A.'s office officially drop charges against him, saying the continued press attention is harmful to her and her family.
According to Christopher Sandford's Polanski biography, the director would definitely have faced more jail time above and beyond his plea bargain had he stayed in the U.S. because of a vindictive judge, though the L.A. Times claims Polanski tried to work out a deal in 1997 that would see him sentenced to time served and released right away. Now, he's officially lawyering up as the U.S. Justice Department officially files a written extradition request in Swiss courts, appeals on which basis could take months. Meanwhile, the director will wish he had looked into a country that doesn't have any extradition treaty at alllike Namibia, where Wesley Snipes once hid from the IRS. But to be really safe, he should have opted for a country that doesn't have extradition or diplomatic relations with the U.S., like Bhutan or Cuba (disclaimer: we're not immigration lawyers), where a request by authorities would probably go unheard.
One thing's for sure: Between this and the settlement earlier this year in which local bank UBS agreed to hand over the names of numbered account holders accused of hiding money in the country, Switzerland hasn't been this far from neutrality since the Swabian War.
· Fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski is seized in Switzerland [LA Times]
· Dec. 2008: Red Rover, Red Rover, Let Roman Polanski Come Over [Jaunted]
· Roman Polanski's victim Samantha Geimer, now 45, 'got over it long ago' [NY Daily News]
· A Primer on U.S. Extradition Law [FreeExistence.org]
[Still from "Rosemary's Baby": ]