Prosecution in Netanyahu Trial Admits: We Don’t Know Where Our Star Witness Is

Whereabouts of Australian tycoon James Packer unknown; under cross-examination, Milchan aide tells court: Netanyahus drank champagne like water

Yael Freidson
Yael Freidson
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu / Arnon Milchan / James Packer.
Benjamin Netanyahu / Arnon Milchan / James PackerCredit: rancois Mori/ AFP, Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images, Julian Abram Wainwright/Bloomberg
Yael Freidson
Yael Freidson

The prosecutor in the “lavish gifts” corruption trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the court Tuesday that although the prosecution doesn’t know the whereabouts of James Packer, an Australian businessman who gave Netanyahu gifts, it has no intention of forgoing the testimony of the state’s key witness.

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In response to a question from the head of the panel of judges that is hearing the case in Jerusalem, Alon Gildin said: “The prosecution hasn’t given up on anyone.” A lawyer for Netanyahu argued that this was “for tactical purposes.”

During the continuation of the cross-examination of Hadas Klein, the personal assistant of Arnon Milchan, defense lawyer Amit Hadad tried to show that the Israeli American movie mogul had bought alcohol and presents for other people, not only for the Netanyahus, and in particular for Packer. Hadad even argued that Packer had purchased such items for members of the Netanyahu family and did not view it as a burden or a difficulty, due to his vast wealth. The judges remarked that the test is likely to be the attitude toward the gifts of the recipient – Netanyahu – and not the giver.

According to Hadad, there was a correlation between the presence of Milchan and Packer in Israel and the alcohol purchases. “In general, bottles are purchased when Packer is in Israel and not when he is not,” Hadad said, submitting records of the dates of Packer’s time in Israel in 2014 and their correspondence with orders for alcoholic beverages.

After Hadad cited several examples, Judge Moshe Bar-Am warned him about the nature of the questions, and Hadad explained that he sought to show “the quantities and the consumption.” When he asked about Milchan’s personal consumption, Klein replied: “Don’t even start, I really want Arnon to take the stand and he’ll testify about that. In a moment you’ll ask him what he ate for breakfast.”

Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan and James Packer, at the Jerusalem District Court, last month.Credit: Emil Salman

Klein said she didn’t know whether all of the bottles had been purchased for the Netanyahus. “When [we] traveled to meetings [we] bring champagne and we make sure there are cases in the gym, I’d get a phone call from Mrs. Netanyahu that she’s coming with the bodyguard to take it since it’s pretty heavy,” she said. “At some stage, after they drank there like water, when Shani [Koskas, Packer’s housekeeper in Israel] complained that we were being left without any inventory, I told her to hide it in the [home bomb shelter] and she’d put the key in the freezer.”

Hadad later argued that Klein had cooperated with the police without Milchan’s permission, and Klein said: “You will not slander me for being an agent of the police.”

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