James Packer appearing at the Crown inquiry (Image: Supplied)

Australians are being given a rare glimpse into the world of James Packer and it’s even more bizarre than we imagined. 

Israeli billionaires, secret deals with mysterious financiers and threats of Mossad-trained enforcers — and that’s before you get to allegations surrounding Chinese crime gangs and money laundering. 

The reclusive billionaire has spent only a few hours in the stand at the NSW inquiry into Crown casino and already it is shaping up as a defining moment in the Packer family saga.

The bombshells continued today with Packer claiming:

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  • He was not aware staff in China feared for their safety before they were arrested in 2016 
  • Two of his key executives “let the side down” when it came to Crown’s dealings in China
  • He “couldn’t recall” news reports in early 2015 about China launching a crackdown on foreign casinos luring Chinese citizens to gamble overseas.

The inquiry is investigating whether Crown should keep the licence for its casino at Barangaroo but has covered all sorts of ground.

Counsel assisting the commissioner Adam Bell SC wasted no time getting down to business yesterday, quickly turning to Packer’s dealings with a mysterious businessman, Mr X, which the Nine papers have today described as a “leading private equity executive from Melbourne”. 

The casino mogul admitted threatening Mr X in a series of secret emails in which he made references to his association with a person connected to the Israeli intelligence agency. 

Packer agreed his dealings with the man — which related to a privatisation deal in 2015 — had been “shameful” and “disgraceful”, but told the inquiry it “came as a surprise” to him that the threat would have made the businessman fearful. 

“You accept your conduct in these emails was disgraceful don’t you?” Bell asked. 

“Yes,” Packer responded. 

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have revealed Mr X sought legal and security advice following the email.

Packer’s lawyers have successfully argued to keep the contents of the emails confidential, saying they took place at a time when Packer was in a state of “deep personal crisis”.

Packer said the emails reflected his “medical state” at the time, adding that he was now being treated for bi-polar disorder. But he admitted his condition had not been mentioned as a reason for him standing down from the Crown board in 2015. 

He also issued a statement saying he was on medication that impaired his ability to recall past events.

Serious failings 

Packer is giving evidence to the inquiry via video link from his luxury superyacht, anchored somewhere in the Pacific. It’s his first public appearance in more than two years.

While the video feed portrays him as the business royalty he is, neatly framed in a suit and tie, out of frame appears to be a life more akin to a spy novel.

The inquiry also heard how Packer, who has a house in Israel, was planning to launch a cybersecurity business with businessman Arnon Milchen, who had worked in weapons procurement and was connected to Mossad. 

Packer conceded Crown’s unofficial junket office in China —  a semi-residential building that often attracted the attention of authorities — was a “serious failure” of Crown and his own ethical standing, given it was in clear breach of Chinese laws. 

“It’s more than that, isn’t it Mr Packer?” Commissioner Patricia Bergin asked.

“Madam Commissioner I accept it’s a serious failure,” Packer responded.

As Crikey went to press, Packer was still giving his testimony, and the hearings into Crown continue.