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Australia

Australian billionaire James Packer questioned over links with Israeli PM Netanyahu as graft probe widens

The mogul, who runs the Crown gaming empire and reportedly has a close relationship with the prime minister, voluntarily attended an interview with federal police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 3:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 3:28pm

Billionaire James Packer has been questioned by police in Australia over a corruption investigation involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is suspected of receiving luxury gifts from wealthy supporters.

The mogul, who runs the Crown gaming empire and reportedly has a close relationship with Netanyahu, voluntarily attended an interview with the Australian Federal Police (Agence France-Presse), a police spokesman said on Friday, without specifying when the interview took place.

“Mr Packer participated in the interview on a voluntary basis as a witness for an investigation being conducted by Israeli authorities,” the spokesman said.

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Packer, who recently split up with American singer Mariah Carey, was not suspected of criminal conduct in either Israel or Australia, he added.

Netanyahu has so far been questioned six times over two alleged cases of corruption.

One of those he is accused of accepting gifts from is Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, a Packer business partner, who reportedly sent boxes of expensive cigars and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Israeli media has said police were looking at whether Packer split the cost of gifts with Milchan.

The Australian also reportedly paid for luxury hotel accommodation for Netanyahu’s son Yair, and gave the Israeli leader’s wife Sara 10 tickets to a concert by his girlfriend at the time, Carey.

Netanyahu also faced police questioning over suspicions he sought a secret deal for favourable coverage with the publisher of top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing and says he has been the target of a campaign by political opponents.