FRANKFURT -- An investigation into bribery and kickbacks at Gerneral Motors Corp.'s Adam Opel AG unit and German construction firms encompasses more than 200 people -- 40 Opel employees.

Opel began an internal investigation into "improper gifts from suppliers" to managers in its manufacturing engineering department in May 1994. The cases involved a number of construction firms whose employees allegedly won business at Opel through bribery.

The initial charges of impropriety were lodged by Rolf Lagrange, head of the Lagrange Electric GmbH construction company. Lagrange said his company was not getting any construction contracts because it did not bribe well enough.

Opel called in the Darmstadt prosecutor's office in addition to the internal investigation.

After several searches conducted by the police in September 1994, evidence was secured that led to the termination of 15 Opel employees. None has yet been charged with anything. Investigations by the Darmstadt prosecutor's office are still under way. German tax authorities also are looking into possible tax evasion by the people involved.

One former Opel manager, Hans-Juergen Perizonius, who had been promoted to head of global paint technology for General Motors Corp., was found dead in his U.S. apartment in Bloomfield Hills, MI. He apparently committed suicide after learning he was one of the 40 employees under investigation for fraud.

Late in June, tax authorities searched the home, office and car of Peter Enderle, 60, management board member in charge of manufacturing. Mr. Enderle subsequently asked to be put on leave following the search, and later resigned. Mr. Enderle says the accusations against him are unfounded. Opel stresses it has found no evidence of wrongdoing by any member of its board.