Australian billionaire James Packer who is the biggest shareholder in Crown Resorts has come under the radar of Israeli authorities after showering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family with a number of gifts and benefits. Channel 10 confirmed earlier this week that an investigation has been launched to determine if Packer was receiving any special benefits due to his close relationship with the Netanyahu family.
This hasn’t been the best year for Packer who had earlier sold 35 million shares in Crown Resorts to settle a debt with his sister Gretel Parker for A$1.25 billion. Packer has also been reported to have parted ways with his partner, international R&B diva Mariah Carey. To make matters worse, Chinese authorities arrested 18 Crown Resorts employees in Mainland China during October for allegedly violating gambling laws in the country.
Channel 10 has highlighted the fact that Packer provided 10 tickets for a Mariah Carey show in Rishon Letzion to Sara Netanyahu and an additional 7 tickets to Yossi Cohen who at the time was the leader of the National Security Council. Cohen has since taken up the post as the director of Mossad. Packer is also alleged to have allowed the Prime Minister’s son Yair Netanyahu to stay at his Tel Aviv apartment at the Royal Beach Hotel for a number of nights. Yair Netanyahu is also alleged to have used the billionaire’s personal jet on a number of occasions and has also invited a number of his friends to fly with him.
Raviv Drucket from Channel 10 also reported that Yair Netanyahu flew to New York in September 2015 along together his father’s delegation to attend the United Nations General Assembly. During this time, Yair is reported to have stayed at a luxury hotel in Greenwich Village which is where Packer usually stays during his New York trips. Packer is reported to have paid the bill for Yair’s stay at the hotel. Packer had also made claims that he had gone over Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations and had a copy of the speech.
James Packer has expressed interest in moving to Israel and gaining permanent residency and there are concerns that these lavish gifts might play a role in Packer obtaining permanent residency. One of the reasons why Packer could be interested in becoming a permanent resident in Israel is due to the number of tax breaks he would receive. Netanyahu’s previous attorney Jacob Weinroth has now become Packer’s lawyer and is reported to have recently met with the Arye Dery, the Interior Minister and requested him to grant the non-Jewish Packer permanent residency in the country. The Interior Minister has the authority to make such decisions and grant permanent residency at his discretion.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the Channel 10 report and stated that Yair Netanyahu is a student and private citizen who was not required to provide journalists with any answers. The spokesman also stated that James Packer was a friend of the Netanyahu family and had hence hosted the family on previous occasions.