Prosecution Examines Perks Mossad Chief Received From Netanyahu Confidant

Prosecutors and Civil Service Commission investigating whether the gifts billionaire James Packer gave to Mossad chief Yossi Cohen were legal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.
Haim Tzach/GPO

The Civil Service Commission is looking into allegations that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen received free tickets worth thousands of shekels to a Mariah Carey concert from Australian billionaire James Packer, as well as use of a luxury Tel Aviv suite at Packer's expense, as reported by Channel 10 in November.

The Civil Service probe is now being accompanied by the State Prosecutor's Office. The law requires prosecutors to be involved in deciding whether to proceed with the matter as a disciplinary or criminal affair.

Prosecutors have not yet given an answer to the Civil Service Commission on the question, but have asked Cohen for his response to the reports, said a source with knowledge of the matter.    

The State Prosecutor's Office confirmed an examination of the matter is being conducted by the Civil Service Commission and that it is accompanying it.

According to Channel 10, in 2015 Packer gave Cohen tickets worth thousands of shekels for a performance by Mariah Carey, his fiance at the time. In addition, it is being examined whether Cohen, at the time the head of the National Security council, paid for the use of a luxury suite provided by Packer.

Packer's name has come up in the two investigations now being conducted against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known by police as Case 1000 and Case 2000. 

Case 1000 involves allegations that wealthy businessmen, including the Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, were asked to purchase luxury items such as cigars and alcoholic beverages, with a total value of hundreds of thousands of shekels, for Netanyahu and his wife. Case 2000 involves a deal that Netanyahu apparently concocted with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, whereby the prime minister would receive favorable coverage in Yedioth in exchange for cutting back on the extent of the commercial activity of the competing, pro-Netanyahu freebie daily Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu was reportedly questioned by police investigators on his relationship with Packer as part of Case 1000. Among other things, Netanyahu was questioned on a report by Channel 10's Raviv Drucker that Packer hosted his son at a luxury Tel Aviv apartment he owns.

The November report claimed that aside than hosting the younger Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv apartment, Packer also paid for some of his vacations, private flights and stays in luxury hotels. It also claimed, inter alia, that Yair Netanyahu was flown aboard Packer's private jet, and that in some cases Packer also footed the bill for friends who joined him on vacation. According to the report, Yair Netanyahu went on a ski trip in Aspen, Colorado, where he stayed at the luxury home of Packer, who wasn’t present there at the time.

According to the report, Jacob Weinroth, attorney to both Netanyahu and Packer, met with Interior Minister Arye Dery a few months ago and asked him to grant Packer permanent residency status. One possible explanation for Packer's interest in Israeli residency is the large tax breaks he might be entitled to as a well-off new resident. It was also reported that Netanyahu used to conduct some of his weekend at Packer's Caesarea home, near his own home in the neighborhood.

As for Case 2000, Channel 2's Guy Peleg reported that Netanyahu had approached businessmen to convince them to invest in Yedioth Aharnoth in order to help put the newspaper's publisher Mozes. According to the report, Netanyahu confidant and Hollywood producer Milchan mediated between Packer and Mozes on the subject, and Netanyahu himself briefed Packer before the meetings.