James Packer interviewed by AFP over Israeli investigation into PM Benjamin Netanyahu
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James Packer interviewed by AFP over Israeli investigation into PM Benjamin Netanyahu

The Australian Federal Police interviewed billionaire James Packer on Wednesday in connection with the Israeli investigation into its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli investigators listened in on the interview, which is looking into allegations that the Netanyahu family received lavish gifts, including champagne, cigars, fine clothes and jewellery, from wealthy businessmen including Mr Packer.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by James Packer, who was interviewed in a witness capacity by the AFP.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by James Packer, who was interviewed in a witness capacity by the AFP.

Photo: AAP

Israeli state employees and elected officials are forbidden from accepting gifts, but Mr Netanyahu has characterised the items in question as personal gifts from friends.

This reportedly includes providing luxury holidays and hotels for the PM's family as well as free tickets to concerts given by Mr Packer's then fiancee, pop chanteuse Mariah Carey.

James Packer, right, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from left) and (circled) son Yair Netanyahu.

James Packer, right, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from left) and (circled) son Yair Netanyahu.

Photo: Channel 10
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There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Packer.

A spokesman for Mr Packer confirmed that he was interviewed in Melbourne on Wednesday "as a potential witness in an investigation in Israel".

An AFP spokesperson said "Mr Packer participated in an interview conducted by the AFP, in consultation with Israel".

The AFP said he participated in the interview "on a voluntary basis as a witness for an investigation being conducted by Israeli authorities".

"Mr Packer is not suspected of criminal conduct in either Israel or Australia with respect to this investigation."

Mr Packer has a close relationship with Mr Netanyahu, but according to Israeli reports he was recruited by Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan to help fund the systematic demands of the Netanyahus.

Mr Packer has a home in Tel Aviv that has the Netanyahu family as a neighbour.

"Spending time with Arnon and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been an amazing eye-opener for me and it reinforces how lucky we all are in Australia," Mr Packer told The Daily Telegraph in 2015.

The connection between Milchan and the Packer family goes back to the 1990s, when Kerry Packer acquired a 25 per cent stake in Milchan's movie production business, New Regency, for $165 million.

Milchan, a former Israeli intelligence operative and arms dealer, has film credits that include Pretty Woman, and recent Oscar winners The Revenant and 12 Years a Slave.

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James Packer has also enthusiastically pursued a relationship with Milchan. Mr Packer has invested $15 million in Milchan's security firm, Blue Sky International, which has recruited senior experts from Israel's intelligence and security service.

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Colin Kruger

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald's deputy business editor and online business editor.

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