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Police issue fines after Sydney billionaire fight

May 9, 2014

SYDNEY (AP) — Police fined one of Australia’s richest businessmen and a top television executive 500 Australian dollars ($468) each on Friday for a high-profile street fight in an exclusive Sydney beachside suburb.

Media across Australia have published photographs and video of casino mogul James Packer and his longtime friend David Gyngell, chief executive of Nine Entertainment, punching and grappling with each other outside Packer’s luxury apartment at Bondi Beach on Sunday afternoon.

New South Wales state police launched an investigation in response to the media reports and public criticism of the violence, although no one made an official complaint.

Police said in a statement that both men had been issued with a criminal infringement notice for offensive behavior. They can either pay the fine or fight the charge in court. Neither man could be immediately contacted on Friday for comment.

Police had been considering more serious charges of assault and affray. A conviction for array — an offense that usually involves a public disturbance with a threat of violence — can carry a 10-year prison sentence, while an assault conviction can result in up to five years in prison.

Photographs of Packer after the fight show he had a black eye and swelling to the left side of his face. Gyngell released a statement on Tuesday taking blame for the fight because he had gone to Packer’s home “in an angry mood.”

Police had invited both men through their lawyers to make statements. Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Walton on Wednesday would not say whether either had accepted the invitation, adding police could not compel them to be interviewed.

Brendan Beirne, the photographer who reportedly sold his photographs for more than $200,000 after News Corp. outbid Gyngell’s television network for the images, said he had provided investigators with his pictures as well as a sworn witness statement.

Packer, 46, is chairman of Crown Resorts and has interests in casinos in Australia, Macau and Manila. Forbes lists him as Australia’s third-richest person worth an estimated $6.6 billion.

Gyngell, 48, and Packer have been friends since high school and have been the best man at each other’s weddings. They issued a joint statement Monday saying that they remained friends.

An angry Gyngell’s car was blocking the driveway when Packer arrived at his apartment after flying home from Jerusalem. The pair fought for several minutes while Packer’s driver and bodyguard attempted to separate them.

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