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Netanyahu probe: Family 'demanded' gifts, Australian tycoon told police

James Packer tells Australian police that Israeli prime minister's family sought favours including tickets for Mariah Carey concert
Australian billionaire James Packer (L) and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters)

Benjamin Netanyahu's family demanded gifts from Australian tycoon James Packer including tickets for a Mariah Carey concert, Packer told Australian police interviewing him as part of a corruption investigation into the Israeli prime minister, according to reports on Friday.

Packer was interviewed by Australian Federal Police on behalf of Israeli authorities as part of an investigation into allegations that Netanyahu helped businessmen in exchange for favours and gifts worth up to $100,000.

Gifts bestowed by Packer on the family included a luxury New York hotel stay for Netanyahu's son, and 10 tickets for his wife Sarah for a concert by Packer's former fiancee Mariah Carey, the casino resort owner told police, Israel's Yediot Ahronot news website reported.

Leaked details of the testimonies by Packer and others involved in the case have emerged in Israeli media in recent days.

The investigators are reportedly looking into whether Netanyahu tried to help Packer gain residency in Israel and whether he split the costs of gifts for Netanyahu with his business partner and movie mogul Arnon Milchan who has already been interviewed.

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Yediot Ahronot reported that Packer had agreed to testify on condition that his testimony was not used against him and said that he had not asked for anything in return for the gifts.

But Packer also affirmed that the gifts had been a "demand" by Netanyahu and his family and said that such behaviour was not common among friends.

Packer confirmed to police details already revealed in testimony by Milchan, an Oscar-nominated Hollywood producer, who had told police: "It's not exactly gifts, it's a demand, and gifts are not demanding."

Packer provided tickets for a Mariah Carey concert to Sarah Netanyahu (AFP)
Hadas Klein, Milchan's personal assistant, also coordinated between Packer and Netanyahu's family, he said.

"She coordinated what is needed and what is missing and I approved it. That's how it worked," said Packer, affirming that he did not ask for anything in return.

Packer's testimony comes with Israeli police racing against time to finish their investigation - known as Case 1000 - ahead of a bill now being fast-tracked through the Knesset which would drastically alter the way they operate.

They are reportedly increasing the pace of their work to complete the probe within the next two weeks and submit their findings before the Recommendations Law comes into effect.

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The Recommendations Law, If passed, would make it illegal for police to make recommendations to the attorney general regarding whether indictments should be filed against public figures, including Netanyahu.

The bill also includes a one-year prison sentence for investigators who leak their findings to outside sources.

Critics in Israel have condemned the proposed law as a move from "democratic rule to monarchical rule".

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

"it is an attempt to revive a story that has nothing but false and illegal leaks. The public has grown tired of this organised media campaign aimed at toppling Prime Minister Netanyahu and replacing his government. We repeat: there will be nothing because there is nothing," Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday.

Sara Netanyahu has also previously denied demanding expensive gifts given to her by Milchan.

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