The odds of the successful extradition of Roman Polanski from Switzerland to the US increased today with a ruling by the top Swiss criminal court that denied Polanski’s bail request. Polanski’s attorneys attempted to wheedle the judges with offers of electronic surveillance and the collateral of a chalet in Gstaad as guarantees of Polanski’s good behavior through the extradition process. However, the court took the entirely reasonable approach that a man who went on the lam for over 30 years probably wouldn’t keep his promises to stick around this time, either:
Roman Polanski’s three decades as a fugitive are coming back to haunt him.
Noting his previous escape from U.S. authorities, Switzerland’s top criminal court on Tuesday rejected Polanski’s appeal to be released from prison because of the “high” risk that the 76-year-old director would try to flee again.
Polanski’s offers of bail, house arrest and electronic monitoring failed to sway the tribunal. Even a Swiss chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad was brushed aside as insufficient collateral to guard against Polanski fleeing the country, as the United States seeks to have him extradited for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
“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.
“As a result, the motivation to flee is high,” it said.
One point in the article raised my hackles a bit. Polanski’s attorney said that continued incarceration would cripple the effort to finish his latest film, causing Polanski to go bankrupt and investors to lose $40 million. That cut no ice with the court — and rightfully so. The people who backed a fugitive running away from a statutory-rape conviction should have thought twice before investing that kind of cash, regardless of who they are or what kind of director Polanski is. They took the risk that Polanski would continue to avoid arrest and extradition, gambling that his name would produce a profit on their investment. They chose …. poorly.
Interestingly, the US has not yet submitted a formal extradition request to Switzerland after Polanski’s arrest. The Obama administration has until November 25th to do so, or the Swiss will be forced to release Polanski. Over the next five weeks, we will see if the White House is more interested in appeasing its Hollywood backers or enforcing the law.