Variety reports that Roman Polanski was arrested Saturday at the Zurich Airport in Switzerland.
If the director agrees to be extradited, he could be sent to the U.S. in a few days. If he fights the extradition order, it could take several months for the case to move through Swiss courts.
"We were unaware of any extradition being sought, and separate counsel will be retained for those proceedings," stated his Los Angeles attorneys Douglas Dalton, Chad Hummel and Bart Dalton.
Polanski was charged in 1977 for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He then fled to Paris and has lived there ever since. He has avoided countries with extradition to the U.S.
It it surprising that the Swiss would arrest him since he had been to Switzerland many times over the last three decades. Polanski even has a house in the country.
He had gone to Switzerland to receive the Zurich Film Festival's Golden Eye award for lifetime achievement when he was arrested at the Zurich Airport.
According to The Swiss Justice Ministry, the U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old director around the world since 2005.
According to Georges Kiejman, Polanski's French lawyer, it is "too early to know" if Polanski is going to be extradited.
"The proceedings must take their course," he offered. "For now we are trying to have the arrest warrant lifted in Zurich."
The organizers of the Zurich festival say they are "shocked and dismayed" by the arrest. They decided to hold the award ceremony -- "A Tribute to Roman Polanski" -- and the retrospective of his work this past Sunday.
"Obviously we had no knowledge whatsoever of the plans to arrest Roman Polanski," stated festival organizer Karl Spoerri at the tribute. "The jury decided months ago to honor Roman Polanski. There was never any suggestion at any time from Polanski's management or from Swiss authorities that Polanski would be detained."
"There was a valid arrest request, and we knew when he was coming," offered Justice Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer. "That's why he was taken into custody."
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has said that Polanski will remain in Zurich until the the extradition proceedings are concluded. The U.S. has 60 days to put forth a formal request for Polanski's transfer.
Polanski, who directed such films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby left the U.S. for France in 1978. This was a year after he pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl.
Polanski has since tried to get his case overturned but nothing has come of it.
The victim in the case, Samantha Geimer, is actually behind Polanski's bid for dismissal. She has sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.
In fact, it was earlier this year that a Los Angeles judge dismissed a bid to throw out Polanski's conviction for having sex with Geimer because the director refused to appear in court for a hearing.
Polanski opted not to come to Los Angeles because he was afraid he would be arrested by coming to this country.
Also, new evidence was brought to light in in the HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. It was directed by Marina Zenovich and it revealed misconduct by Santa Monica Judge Laurence A. Rittenband during the 1977 trial. Rittenband has since died.
It seems that Investigators in the U.S. found out about Polanski's trip just days ago. This gave them enough time to put together an arrest.
"There have been other times through the years when we have learned of his potential travel but either those efforts fell through or he didn't make the trip," offered William Sorukas, chief of the U.S. Marshals Service's domestic investigations branch.