Champagne, cigars, flights and hotel rooms: Israel’s Prime Minister has just been indicted on corruption charges, and Crown Casino billionaire James Packer allegedly played a role

James Packer, Crown’s largest shareholder (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges on Thursday in three seperate criminal cases.
  • Crown Casino billionaire James Packer was mentioned in one of the cases, and allegedly offered various gifts to Netanyahu and his family over several years.
  • Police did not allege Netanyahu gave any benefits to Packer, who is estimated to be worth $US3 billion.

Champagne, cigars, Israel’s prime minister, and Crown Casino magnate James Packer. What do they have in common?

A lot, actually.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges on Thursday as part of three separate corruption cases. He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister ever to be indicted.

One of the cases, called “Case 1,000,” involves gifts he and his wife Sara allegedly received from Packer and a Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan over several years.

Police alleged last year that between 2007 and 2016, the Prime Minister and his family received various gifts, including cigars, champagne, flights, and hotel rooms.

The value of the gifts, allegedly from the two businessmen and their representatives, amount to approximately $US282,000.

Police did not allege any benefits given to Packer by Netanyahu.

In 2016, Israeli police were looking into Packer’s relationship with Netanyahu. Israeli media reported at the time that Packer, who is not Jewish, opened a file with Israel’s tax authorities, suggesting he may have been trying to gain residency in the country.

Israeli media also alleged that Netanyahu’s youngest son, Yair, used Packer’s private plane to go on vacations with friends. Packer also reportedly bought large quantities of tickets to former fiance Mariah Carey’s concert in Israel in 2015 and gave tickets to Sara Netanyahu, along with the head of Israel’s National Security Council.

Packer was interviewed as a witness by the AFP as part of an investigation into Netanyahu’s criminal cases in 2017.

“There is no allegation of wrongdoing on Mr Packer’s behalf,” a spokesman for Crown Casino said at the time.

Packer is the largest shareholder of Crown Resorts and is worth around $US3 billion, according to Forbes.

70-year-old Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. He is also accused of attempting to broker a deal with an Israeli media mogul in exchange for positive media coverage and allegedly granted regulatory benefits to a major telecommunications company for similar benefit.

Netanyahu has denied all allegations and said the indictment was a “witch hunt” by the political left and media.

The indictments come at a particularly difficult time for Netanyahu, who failed to form a government after two elections in the last seven months.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s top party rival called for a leadership primary before an inevitable third election takes place.

Neither Netanyahu nor his challenger, retired IDF chief Benny Gantz, were able to form a coalition government by the deadline. Because of this, new elections will likely be called.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called it a “miserable political situation” and begged the Israeli leadership to find some form of compromise.