Polanski will move from cell to chalet
Swiss officials won’t appeal bail
GSTAAD, Switzerland - After two months in a Swiss jail, Roman Polanski prepared yesterday for the splendid captivity of his $1.6 million chalet in one of world’s most luxurious winter resorts.
Polanski will have views of snowcapped Alpine peaks, spacious rooms, and all the amenities of a town with a reputation for catering to the wishes of the rich and famous.
But he won’t be able to go out the front door.
In this isolated bastion of wealth - which Elizabeth Taylor once called home - the 76-year-old director will be placed under house arrest as soon as he posts $4.5 million bail, surrenders his identity documents, and is fitted for an electronic bracelet that allows authorities to monitor his whereabouts.
The Justice Ministry declined yesterday to appeal a court decision granting Polanski bail, and said it would release him from jail while it considers whether to extradite him to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.
“He must not leave this house,’’ the ministry said in a statement. Should he violate the terms of release, the bail will be forfeited to the Swiss government, it added.
Even without stepping outside, Polanski’s life will improve from the small cell he had in Zurich with a sink, toilet, television, and storage compartment.
Gstaad offers a range of restaurants and hotels, and “people here can order food to their chalets any time,’’ said Marlene Mueller of the local tourism agency.
And even though Polanski may now be the world’s most famous fugitive, most locals are likely to leave him alone.
“You can get almost everything here, provided you’ve got the money,’’ tourism chief Roger Seifritz said.
The village of 3,500 full-time residents has cultivated its image as a haven of luxury since Swiss boarding schools set up their winter campuses here for the children of industrialists and aristocrats a century ago.
The locals’ relaxed attitude toward celebrities is typical in Switzerland. “We prefer discretion,’’ said Mayor Aldo Kropf. “That’s why people come here.’’
The bail decision was a major win for the director of “Rosemary’s Baby,’’ “Chinatown,’’ and “The Pianist’’ after a series of legal setbacks following his Sept. 26 arrest on a US warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive an lifetime achievement award at a film festival.
Polanski was accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation, and sodomy, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days.
Polanski fled the United States on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced, and has lived in France since. He claims the US judge and prosecutors acted improperly, and his attorneys will argue before a California appeals court next month that the charges should be dismissed.
Despite ordering Polanski’s release, the Swiss Criminal Court said it still considered Polanski a high flight risk. That threat was underscored yesterday by Interpol’s secretary general.
“Given Mr. Polanski’s history of international travel while defying a judicial order, a $4.5 million bail and an electronic bracelet do not mean that law enforcement lets its global guard down,’’ Ronald K. Noble said.