Opel `bribes' investigation names 200 suppliers

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The Independent Online
STEVE CRAWSHAW

Bonn

Police confirmed yesterday that a huge investigation into alleged corruption is under way at Opel - the German arm of General Motors. Up to 200 suppliers are reportedly under investigation for offering bribes.

The two main German news magazines, Der Spiegel and Focus, both reported the allegations in detail; one headline called it a "culture of corruption".

Those under investigation include Peter Enderle, described as one of GM's most important managers in Europe, who last week took indefinite leave. Others involved are said to include Ferdinand Beickler, a former Opel boss who still sits on the board, and Fritz Lohr, formerly in charge of development.

The thrust of the charges is that these managers - together with several dozen other junior and senior Opel employees - regularly accepted huge sums in cash and favours, from Opel's suppliers: 200 or more people are being investigated for allegedly offering bribes.

Police said yesterday that they do not yet know how large the sums involved will prove to be. Der Spiegel claims that one man alone took around several million marks, over a period of several years. In some cases, firms are alleged to have done expensive building work for individuals, with the bills paid by Opel.

The corruption scandal came to the attention of police last September, when one of Opel's suppliers broke his own cover, and wrote to complain of the "intolerable situation" that had been created, with a clear pattern of corruption, over the years. One supplier alone is said to have delivered DM120,000 (pounds 55,000), in a plastic bag.

Opel called in the police in attempt to crack down on the corruption network.

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