Lawyers in Danish embezzlement case could file complaints against media

Defence lawyers for three people suspected of implication in the embezzlement scandal at Socialstyrelsen, an administrative department of the Ministry for Children and Social Affairs, say media should not have published information relating to their identity.

Lawyers in Danish embezzlement case could file complaints against media
File photo: Nils Svalebøg/Ritzau Scanpix

Last week, the ministry made public details of a long-standing embezzlement affair at the agency.

A 64-year-old former Socialstyrelsen employee is wanted by police for long-term misappropriation of public funds totalling 111 million kroner ($17.23 million). The money is reported to have been taken in many cases from state funds intended to benefit socially underprivileged people.

A number of media could now face police complaints after three defence lawyers contacted a number of managing editors, Ritzau reports.

In addition to the 64-year-old, three further people are suspected of receiving stolen goods as a result of benefitting from the money reportedly misappropriated by the woman.

Unlike the primary suspect, the three are protected by rules preventing their names from being made public, but the lawyers have claimed that a number of media are in breach of this.

Their lawyers will therefore file complaints with police.

“Rules against naming suspects effectively apply to any means of identifying them, so any information that can be used to identify the subject is considered by us to be in breach of the rule,” lawyer Peter Secher wrote in an email to editors, according to Ritzau’s report.

Several media made identification possible via published text and images, according to Secher and the two other lawyers who sent the email, Henrik Dupont Jørgensen and Christian Bjerrehuus.

“We expect such information to be left out of articles and that all articles which contain this information are deleted or edited,” the email stated.

Police complaints will be filed on Friday against media not considered to be in compliance, according to the email.

READ ALSO: Danish social agency freezes payouts after embezzlement scandal


Former Danish social worker convicted of massive fraud

A former employee of Denmark's social services was sentenced to six and half years in prison on Tuesday for embezzling millions in funds, meant for people in need, over decades.

Former Danish social worker convicted of massive fraud
Britta Nielsen's defence lawyer Nima Nabipour speaks to media. Photo:Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Britta Nielsen, 65, was accused of diverting 117 million Danish kroner (15.7 million euros) between 1993 and 2018 from the social services to her personal bank accounts by creating fictitious projects.

In its verdict, the Copenhagen court found Nielsen guilty of “fraud of a particular grave nature… abusing a public position and forgery of a particular grave nature”.

The six year and six month prison sentence is one of the longest handed down for economic crimes in the country, according to Danish media.

Prosecutors had requested at least eight years in prison, claiming she had abused her position as a public servant.

“She has betrayed the trust she was given when she became employed by the National Board of Social Services,” prosecutor Lisbeth Jørgensen told the court during the trial.

Nielsen, who was employed by the social services agency for 40 years, admitted to the fraud but not the amount of money suggested by the prosecution.

During the trial, she explained that she had been drawn into a “vicious circle” and claimed she had acted to improve to the lives of her three children, who have also been charged with handling of stolen goods.

Her lawyer, Nima Nabipour, has asked for a sentence of four to six years, arguing that crimes committed before 2009 have reached their statute of limitations.

The court however found her liable for the embezzling of the full 117 million.

Nabipour has also pleaded mitigating circumstances, like Nielsen's age and health.

The trial has had to be adjourned several times due to Nielsen collapsing in court and being too ill to stand trial.

However, a medical examination found her to be in good health.

Nielsen was arrested in late 2018 in South Africa, where she had fled, and later extradited to Denmark.

In addition to her jail sentence over 113 million kroner of Nielsen's assets were confiscated.