SAP disputes claim of Gupta kickbacks
Leaked e-mails link software firm to family, company may face investigation in Germany
The Guptas had access to confidential financial contracts between multinational enterprise software vendor SAP and state-owned companies, leaked e-mails show.
SAP on Tuesday denied it had paid millions as a "kickback" to a Gupta-owned business.
The German software company may face a criminal investigation in its home country after allegations surfaced on Tuesday that it paid kickbacks to a Gupta-owned company to secure contracts with state-owned companies.
The leaked e-mails throw the spotlight on SAP and the business activities of the Gupta family as the company defended itself against accusations of making irregular payments to a Gupta entity to secure a R100m contract with Transnet.
SAP’s co-founder is respected billionaire Hasso Plattner, who maintains strong ties to SA and owns the Fancourt Golf Estate in the Western Cape.
In addition to details of the Transnet deal, the e-mails show the Guptas had access to more SAP-related information.
Investigative journalism unit AmaBhungane reported on Tuesday that SAP Africa promised to pay a 10% "commission" to CAD House, which is majority owned by the Gupta family’s Sahara Systems, if it managed to secure contracts with Transnet. SAP’s shares are listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, while it is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the form of American Depositary Receipts.
The German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, which supervises listed companies in the country, said it was not the competent authority to investigate and prosecute criminal offences.
Its supervisory responsibilities for listed companies only comprised making sure companies complied with transparency and disclosure obligations as required by securities laws, spokesman Dominika Kula said.
"As far as I understand the media coverage on SAP, the allegations may legally constitute [a] bribe or unlawful acceptance of benefits. In Germany, the public prosecutor, as well as the police, are responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offences," said Kula.
Judith Burns, an officer at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which oversees securities traded on the NYSE, declined to comment on questions about the allegations swirling around SAP.
The SEC has the authority to institute legal action against listed firms and their officers, directors and agents for violating the antibribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which applies globally.
SAP "strongly rejected" the allegations saying they were unfounded and unsubstantiated.
"SAP is dedicated to conducting every aspect of our business responsibly and in accordance with the highest global compliance and legal standards," said SAP Africa MD Brett Parker.
"It has always been and will continue to be SAP’s policy to partner with a wide pool of organisations that qualify for our partner programme, if those organisations meet the ... criteria of our global due diligence and certification processes."
Parker said SAP took exception to the allegations and would take action. He did not respond to further questions.
The additional SAP information that the Gupta family had access to included inside information on another deal between the company and Transnet relating to projects that factored
an aspect which included something included what was described as "maritime intelligence".
The Guptas also obtained a draft contract containing details of an SAP management tool for Eskom valued at about R130m.
The tool is used to track documentation such as purchase orders, invoices and payments.
The Gupta family also had access to information on a bid by SAP to provide commercial software for use in the South African public service.
It is unclear in all cases how the Guptas obtained the information, but there is some correspondence between senior SAP Africa executives and Sahara Systems executives.
The e-mails between SAP and state-owned companies were forwarded to the Guptas via their lieutenants Salim Essa and Ashu Chawla.
SAP Africa spokesman Ansophie Strydom said the company would issue a detailed statement on Wednesday.
The Guptas failed to respond to questions by the time of publication.
Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership SA, said the group had noted these accounts of "prominent businesses being implicated in reports of state capture".