The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite Roman Polanski, according to a statement by the Swiss Justice Office on Friday.
The Swiss authorities said they received the request on Thursday evening. Polanski's legal team said the director would lodge an appeal to fight being sent back.
The Franco-Polish filmmaker was arrested in Zurich on September 26 on the basis of a US warrant and taken into custody awaiting extradition.
The Academy Award-winning director was detained at Zurich airport en route to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival.
The US Embassy in Bern submitted the formal extradition request within the deadline established under a bilateral extradition treaty. The request is based on a warrant issued by the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles on February 1, 1978.
This was the date on which Polanski failed to appear before the judge as was required by his bail conditions.
During the US criminal investigation, Polanski had admitted to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. He is wanted by the US authorities for sentencing for this offence.
The Swiss justice authorities said they would forward the extradition request to canton Zurich for the purpose of holding a hearing for Polanski. It will make its decision regarding extradition based on the results of the hearing and the information provided by Polanski's lawyer.
A spokesman for the justice office, Folco Galli told The Associated Press news agency if extradited, Polanski could be jailed in the US for no more than two years. Galli said the US informed the Swiss of the maximum sentence in its filing.
Right to appeal
In the event that extradition is considered to be admissible, Polanski will have the option of appealing against the Swiss government's decision before the federal courts – the criminal tribunal in Bellinzona and the supreme court in Lausanne.
After Polanski fled the US, the American extradition services became active after it was learned the director was living in France.
Officials in the US were kept abreast of the fugitive director's whereabouts over the years and repeatedly confirmed that the arrest warrant was still valid.
When Polanski was detained at Zurich airport last month, questions were raised why Switzerland decided to go after him at that time, even though the director was a frequent visitor to the country, where he owns a chalet in Gstaad.
Galli defended the Swiss move in a statement to AP earlier this week.
Swiss officials asked their American counterparts if their arrest warrant was still valid. After receiving confirmation, justice authorities said Switzerland was obliged by treaty to apprehend the director.
Galli also said that this was the first time officials had precise details on the director's arrival in Switzerland and an official American request to arrest him.
Previous extradition attempts
Feb. 3, 1978: Federal authorities confirm Polanski is living in France.
May 3, 1978: Provisional arrest request prepared when officials learn Polanski may be in England.
December 1986: Authorities talk to Canadian police after learning Polanski may be travelling there.
May 1988: Authorities receive notice Polanski may travel to Germany, Denmark, Sweden or Brazil. They confirm warrant is active but no arrest is made.
October 2005: The LA District Attorney's Office tells Interpol Polanski will be in Thailand. He is not arrested.
July 10, 2007: Polanski goes to Israel, but Israelis want more details before making an arrest. By the time the information arrives, Polanski is gone.
Sept. 22, 2009: Swiss inform the US that Polanski is scheduled to appear at a film festival in Zurich. Americans draft a provisional arrest warrant that Swiss authorities execute a few days later.
(Source: Los Angeles District Attorney's Office)