Billionaire businessman James Packer is named as a star witness in the corruption trial of his friend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- James Packer met Netanyahu through Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan
- Packer and Milchan gave the Israeli prime minister $300,000 worth of gifts
- The gifts of cigar boxes and champagne were given to Netanyahu and his wife
- The PM is facing charges of graft for ‘breach of trust, accepting bribes and fraud’
James Packer has been named as a prosecution witness in the corruption trial of his friend and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The billionaire businessman will be questioned over $300,000 worth of cigars, champagne and other gifts he gave to Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara.
A corruption indictment for fraud, breach of trust and bribery has been lodged against Mr Netanyahu, who is fighting for re-election in March.
Packer hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, but was close friends with Mr Netanyahu, whom he met through Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
The 52-year-old real estate magnate has cooperated with investigators probing the prime minister’s activities.
James Packer gifted $300,000 worth of cigars, champagne and other presents to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) and his wife Sara
Packer hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, but was close friends with Netanyahu, whom he met through mutual friend Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan
‘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’,’ indictment documents obtained by News Corp stated.
‘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.’
The casino tycoon has been friends with Netanyahu for several years, and the pair often spend time together at Packer’s home in the exclusive Israeli town of Caesarea.
It’s been previous reported in Israeli media that the prime minister saved Packer’s life by calling him during he and Mariah Carey’s tumultuous 2016 breakup.
‘I asked Bibi (Netanyahu) to pick up a phone and call Jimmy to save his life,’ Mr Milchan told Haaretz.
Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing in an impassioned rant on Facebook, where he criticised the timing of US President 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.
‘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.’
Netanyahu was formally charged in a Jerusalem court on allegations of graft on Tuesday, just hours after withdrawing his request for immunity from prosecution.
An indictment was filed at the Jerusalem District Court by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
The court will now set a date for the beginning of the trial.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was set to convene to discuss the formation of a committee to debate the prime minister’s immunity request. It’s still expected to meet even after the withdrawal.
The Knesset was widely expected to reject Netanyahu’s immunity request, which would have dealt a massive blow to the prime minister ahead of the 2 March parliamentary elections – the third in less than a year.
Netanyahu’s Likud party was planning to boycott Tuesday’s Knesset session.
Netanyahu’s was indicted on counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in November in three separate cases. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing in an impassioned rant on Facebook, where he criticised the timing of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan announcement