Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police as he flew in for the Zurich Film Festival on Saturday and faces possible extradition to the United States for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, authorities say.
Polanski was scheduled to receive an honorary award at the festival when he was apprehended Saturday at the airport, the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement. U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old director around the world since 2005.
Justice ministry spokesman Guido Balmer confirmed that Swiss authorities were acting on a US arrest warrant, and said that the ministry was considering if and when to extradite the 76-year-old to the US. Polanksi has been to Switzerland several times before, without the authorities acting on the decades-old warrant. However, Balmer said that “we knew this time exactly when he was coming.”
“There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming,” Balmer told The Associated Press. “That’s why he was taken into custody.”
Polanksi fled the US after admitting to drugging and sexually-assaulting the 13-year-old in Jack Nicholson’s Hollywood mansion more than 30 years ago. He has not returned to the US since and is now a French citizen.
In May, Polanksi failed in an attempt to have the charges against him dropped, when the California court insisted he appear in person. Polanksi claims misconduct of judicial authorities in the original case.
Polanksi, a native of Poland, is best known for his work in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Pianist (2002).