Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial continues as the PM attempts to form a new government following the March elections. He’s accused of a range of crimes including breach of trust, pay-to-play corruption, and bribery. Among the individuals accused of involvement is James Packer, a well-known Australian businessman.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his son Yair, wife Sara, and Yossi Cohen – the Netanyahu loyalist who became chief of the Mossad – befriended, manipulated, and emotionally abused Australian billionaire James Packer as the mentally troubled businessman worked to establish ties with Israel’s political elite, a deep-dive investigation by Haaretz citing court testimony and individuals familiar with the situation has alleged.
Police launched a corruption investigation into the Netanyahus in late 2016 on the basis of testimony of a personal assistant to Packer and Arnon Milchan – the Israeli billionaire Hollywood producer and arms dealer. The assistant said that Milchan, who knew his way around Israel’s political elite, introduced Packer to Netanyahu in 2013, and convinced him to shower the prime minister’s family with lavish gifts ranging from expensive cigars and cases of champagne to jewellery and other fashion accessories worth thousands of dollars to facilitate business.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara would allegedly go on to use a combination of smooth talking and psychological pressure to get Packer to buy controlling stakes in media outlets to portray the prime minister in a positive light, even as some observers expressed concerns about the billionaire’s mental state.
“I thought he came to some of the meetings with Bibi drunk or high,” Ari Harow, a former Netanyahu chief of staff who resigned in 2015 and turned state’s witness in a plea bargain amid the corruption probe, said in testimony. “One time when he came for a meeting he threw up.”
Israeli politician Yair Lapid, whom Milchan had also introduced to Packer, similarly expressed concerns about the Australian billionaire’s state when they met, saying he “looked drugged.”
However, the Netanyahus allegedly overlooked these problems, or even sought to use them to their advantage, with Harow testifying that “it was clear that the relationship from [Netanyahu’s] point of view was in order to benefit from this friendship.”