Primary suspect arrested in Danish social welfare embezzlement case

Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen, who is suspected of misappropriating 111 million kroner from the National Board of Social Services (Socialstyrelsen), an administrative department of the Ministry for Children and Social Affairs, has been arrested in South Africa.

Primary suspect arrested in Danish social welfare embezzlement case
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

READ ALSO: Warnings of irregularities at Danish social welfare authority raised in 2006


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.