Police Opens Probe Into ex-Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen Over $20,000 Cash Gift From James Packer

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen
Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen Credit: Moti Milrod
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel Police began a preliminary inquiry on Sunday into former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on several allegations including receiving a $20,000 gift from billionaire tycoon James Packer which Cohen never reported.

The decision to open the inquiry, which is meant to determine whether a full-fledged investigation is warranted, was made at the request of State Prosecutor Amit Aisman. For now, the police plans to focus on gathering information, and are not expected to summon Cohen for questioning. Last month, the media reported that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is looking into several additional complaints against Cohen.

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The first complaint stemmed from a Haaretz exposé published in April 2021, while Cohen was still head of the Mossad. According to the report Packer attended the wedding of Cohen’s daughter and “gifted” him $20,000 in cash in June 2016.

The law generally bans civil servants and elected officials from accepting gifts of substantial value unless under exceptional circumstances. Moreover, if gifts are accepted, they must be reported. The context of the parties’ relationship is also crucial for determining whether the official may receive a gift - namely, whether the relationship started because of the official’s job or independent of it.

Australian billionaire James PackerCredit: Tyrone Siu/ Reuters

In an interview with Ilana Dayan that aired on the investigative television program “Uvda” in June, Cohen termed the gift he received from Packer as “an honest mistake,” and said that he intends on returning the money to Packer.

Mendelblit is also looking into Cohen’s involvement in a business dispute between car importers Rami Ungar and Michael Levi, over the franchise to sell Kia cars in Israel. Cohen’s involvement in the dispute was revealed in testimony given in court by Aviram Halevy, the former deputy commander of the elite commando unit Sayaret Matkal. Halevy testified that as deputy head of the Mossad, Cohen asked him to meet with attorney Avigdor Klagsbald, who represented Ungar. TheMarker revealed that between 2011 and 2013 Ungar donated 1.1 million shekels to the construction of a synagogue across from Cohen’s home. 

Mendelblit is examining a third complaint, reported last month by journalist Raviv Drucker on Channel 13 News, claiming that Cohen revealed confidential information to a flight attendant with whom he was in close contact during the last two years of his term as Mossad chief. Cohen denies the claims, and said he did not violate any information security rules and was not close to the flight attendant.

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