Packer a witness in Israeli PM corruption case

 

BILLIONAIRE businessman James Packer has been listed as prosecution witness number 213 in a corruption indictment lodged against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Packer is expected to be questioned over the gifts he gave to Mr Netanyahu, including cigars and champagne if he is called in the case, according to documents released in Israel.

Mr Packer has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but was a close friend of Mr Netanyahu, who is battling for re-election in March.

He cooperated with investigators probing Mr Netanyahu's activities, described as Case 1000.

The documents are part of a major dump by prosecutors who want to move ahead with corruption charges against the country's longest serving Prime Minister.

Mr Packer was introduced to Mr Netanyahu by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, a mutual friend of the two men.

The pair gave Mr Netanyahu gifts worth almost $A300,000, according to a translation of the indictment.

The documents described Mr Packer as "an Australian businessman who has businesses in various fields, among others, in the fields of entertainment, gambling and real estate."

"As part of his business, Packer was the owner of a company in Israel that operated in the investments field of Israeli companies in the hi-tech industry," the documents stated.

"Packer also looked into investments in Israel in the communications field. In the years 2014-2016, Packer purchased a home in Israel and has worked to receive residency status in Israel."

An Israeli newspaper has previously reported that Mr Netanyahu saved Mr Packer's life with a phone call when he was at the height of his messy break up with Mariah Carey.

"I asked Bibi (Netanyahu) to pick up a phone and call Jimmy to save his life," Mr Milchan told Haaretz.

The documents claim that Mr Packer and Mr Netanyahu were friends for several years.

The pair would visit each other in Israel, at Mr Packer's home in Caesarea, the country's most prestigious suburb on the Mediterranean Sea, which was next to a property owned by Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Packer's staff would drop off gifts at Mr Netanyahu's house, or to the official Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu was also allowed to use Mr Packer's home in Israel when he was not there.

"The gifts, mainly cigar boxes and champagnes, were given to Netanyahu and his wife by Milchan and Packer continuously in response to requests and even demands, including through deliveries, even when Milchan and Packer did not stay in Israel, to the extent that they became a 'supply line'," the documents said.

Billionaire businessman James Packer has been listed as prosecution witness number 213 and is expected to be questioned over gifts he gave Mr Netanyahu. Picture Aaron Francis
Billionaire businessman James Packer has been listed as prosecution witness number 213 and is expected to be questioned over gifts he gave Mr Netanyahu. Picture Aaron Francis


Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and slammed the timing of the indictment ahead of Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan announcement.

"At this fateful hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the US on a historic mission to shape Israel's permanent borders and ensure our security for future generations, another Knesset (Israeli parliament) show is expected to open in the immunity circus," he wrote on Facebook.

"Since I was not given due process, because all the rules of Knesset work were trampled on, and since the results of the procedure were pre-dictated without proper discussion, I decided not to let this dirty game continue."

Mr Packer was also due to be called as a witness into his plans to sell his stake in the Crown Casino group to Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Ho.

stephen.drill@news.co.uk


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