Is Switzerland trading Polanski for banking leniency?

Is Switzerland trading Polanski for banking leniency?

The L.A. Times‘ Joanna Neumann has a round-up of speculation that Switzerland’s decision to finally arrest director Roman Polanski may have been a bid to earn leniency from U.S. legal authorities, who are currently investigating Swiss Bank UBS in an ongoing tax-evasion investigation.

On Sunday the AP accidentally sent out an internal communication between two staffers speculating about the connection. The Swiss Justice minsitry has denied any connection between the arrest and any other issues.

The theory seems a bit unlikely. Despite the L.A. prosecutor’s office’s protestations, it doesn’t really seem like pursuing Polanski has been a major priority for the justice department over the years, certainly not compared to the Obama administration’s the high-profile crackdown on tax evasion.

The timing of the arrest does seem a little arbitrary given that Polanski has been vacation at his house in Switzerland for years, but the Swiss do seem to be moving toward greater cooperation with international legal authorities, a trend that includes identifying the UBS tax cheats. The decision to finally hand over Polanski does seem like part of a larger effort to end Switzerland’s reputation as an international scofflaw, but it seems doubtful that there was an explicit quid pro quo.