At the time, Madonsela was prepared to go to court to stop the investigation, which she believed would be used a pretext for the State Security Agency to tap phones at the public protector's office or for President Jacob Zuma to suspend her while the investigation was under way.
Madonsela told The Times the claims she was a spy had surfaced before Mahlobo's announcement of the State Security Agency investigation - but the various stories differed in their accounts of how she had been recruited, the identity of her "handler" and the nature of her covert mission.
"This one was a third story, all of them unrelated to each other . they were desperately looking for someone [to push the story] but they didn't employ people intelligent enough to come up with a credible story," Madonsela said.
"But I didn't know that the Guptas were involved."
The e-mail's date, she said, would mean "that either the Guptas gave it to them [the State Security Agency], or the same source did".