Nielsen, 64, has been wanted internationally by Danish authorities since the ministry went public on October 9th with details of an embezzlement affair spanning 16 years from 2002 to 2018, depriving the agency of in excess of 100 million kroner.
She was arrested in South Africa on Monday morning, the state prosecutor for Special Financial and International Crime (SØIK) confirmed in a press statement.
The arrest took place in an apartment in the southern part of Johannesburg at around 5:30am.
SØIK investigators were present at the arrest, which was carried out by South African authorities.
Nielsen, who was employed by Socialstyrelsen for 40 years, is suspected of having transferred 111 kroner to her own bank accounts. The money is reported to have been taken in many cases from state funds designated to support socially underprivileged people. This is provided for by state funding known as satspuljen, derived from regulating the increase in all social welfare payments.
SØIK superintendent Thomas Anderskov Riis said the arrest represented a breakthrough in the case.
“The escape is over. The primary suspect is under arrest. That is the result of a targeted international collaboration between SØIK and a number of international authorities,” Riis said.
Denmark will now request Nielsen be extradited. Another person, a Danish man was last week also arrested in South Africa in connection with the case.
The arrested man is protected by rules preventing his names from being made public, so his relationship to Nielsen has not been revealed.