The State Prosecutor’s Office has decided to look into claims that a top security official who later became the head of the Mossad intelligence agency received expensive tickets to a Mariah Carey concert from her then-fiance, billionaire Australian businessman James Packer, Channel 10 reported Tuesday.
Packer has emerged as a key figure in ongoing corruption investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer who also figures prominently in the investigations of Netanyahu, and Packer are friends and have mutual business interests. The Haaretz daily reported that in 2015 Milchan and Packer tried wooing Cohen to join a global security firm called Blue Sky International, which was started by Milchan in 2008. The businessmen wanted Cohen to take up a partnership in a cybersecurity project. At the time, Cohen was head of the National Security Council and in December 2015 Netanyahu selected him to lead the Mossad, putting the kibosh on Milchan and Packer’s offer.
The development in Cohen’s case came after the Civil Service Commission in December began looking into reports that months before he took up the position as director of Israel’s spy agency, he had received from Packer tickets worth thousands of shekels to attend a Carey concert in central Israel in August 2015.
State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan will decide whether or not to expand on the investigation or just review the material already gathered by the CSS, the TV report said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Netanyahu’s son Yair gave testimony to police on “Case 1000,” which centers on allegations the prime minster’s family received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cigars, champagne and other gifts. The gifts allegedly included hotel rooms for Yair Netanyahu paid for by Packer and Milchan.
Netanyahu, 25, arrived at the police’s Lahav 433 serious crime unit headquarters in Lod, outside Tel Aviv, where he was expected to deny that his father knew he had been in contact with Packer.
The prime minister has said the benefits were “trifles” and nothing more than gifts between friends.
Channel 10 reported last week that Packer was also paying for meals for the Netanyahus at their private residence in Caesarea, as well as for cigars and champagne.
According to a November 2016 report by Channel 10, when Carey came to perform in Rishon Lezion, Packer handed out 10 tickets to Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and seven more to Cohen. The report also said that Packer had lavished Yair Netanyahu with gifts, including extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, the use of his private jet, and dozens of tickets to concerts by Carey.
While leaked reports of the police investigation into cigars and fine wines supplied to Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu have indicated that Milchan spent some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) on such luxuries for them, the prime minister and his wife have reportedly told police that the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were unremarkable since the Milchans are close friends.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.