Cape Town - The claims by investigative magazine Noseweek of kickbacks and money laundering in a deal between Independent Newspapers and Auction Alliance was misleading, the newspaper group said on Thursday.

“This is a grossly misleading depiction of events. No such deal was struck or even contemplated,” Independent Newspapers said in a statement.

“It is untrue the court papers were sealed. An out-of-court-settlement was reached which allowed Independent Newspapers to proceed with a damaging expose on Auction Alliance.”

It said to suggest that any person in the management of Independent Newspapers received money was untrue and reckless.

“This transaction was fully and properly accounted for in the company's books as part of the final sale proceeds.”

It said with reference to information about the attorneys of Auction Alliance, copies of these papers were attached to the answering affidavits filed on behalf of Independent Newspapers.

“These allegations remain in the public domain, for anyone to read or publish. It is telling that none of the Independent Newspapers executives named in the article - nor any others - were contacted for comment, information, corroboration or response by Noseweek.”

Earlier on Thursday Auction Alliance attorney, Alan Smiedt said: “At no stage was any deal done nor did the settlement involve any secret deals or trump cards.”

Earlier, in the Cape Times, Independent editor-in-chief Chris Whitfield said a supposed deal made regarding the publication of information on auction kickbacks was “absolute scurrilous journalism” and “fevered imaginings made into print”.

The Noseweek article claims the two companies made a hurried deal to ensure both companies' dirty laundry was not aired.

Smiedt said it was “indeed a pity” that the facts of the Noseweek story were not checked before publication.

Had the author attempted to verify the facts, “he would have also seen that the suggestion of impropriety on my part is devoid of any truth”.

According to the Noseweek article, Auction Alliance boss Rael Levitt had a “trump card” - information that newspaper bosses had negotiated a kickback of more than R1 million from him on the sale of two Cape Town buildings about a year ago.

It also alleged that the editorial team and lawyers had “evidence” of kickbacks paid to a prominent liquidator, and that Smiedt was involved in laundering the money.

Earlier this year, Independent Newspapers exposed a money-making racket involving bank officials, liquidators and attorneys paid by the auction company to push business its way.

Independent denied the latest allegations.

According to the report, Whitfield said Noseweek had not attempted to check any facts with him. - Sapa