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EXCLUSIVE-SAP opens probe into South African unit kickback reports

FRANKFURT, July 12 (Reuters) - Europe's top technology company, SAP, has put four senior managers in South Africa on leave and begun a probe into reports that have dragged the company into an influence peddling scandal involving friends of President Jacob Zuma.

South African media reported on Tuesday that SAP paid alleged kickbacks in the form of sales commissions to a firm linked to the politically connected Gupta family, helping SAP clinch a deal worth 1 billion rand ($76 million) with rail and logistics company Transnet and other state-owned firms.

The ruling African National Congress party has been damaged by leaked emails appearing to show fraud in the awarding of state contracts.

"We've obviously seen the claims in the media. And we're taking these extremely, very, very seriously." Adaire Fox-Martin, co-president for global customer operations, told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. (Reporting By Eric Auchard; Editing by Kirsti Knolle)