South Africa extradites primary suspect in Danish embezzlement case

Authorities in South Africa on Thursday approved the extradition to Denmark of two suspects in a major case involving misappropriation of public funds.

South Africa extradites primary suspect in Danish embezzlement case
Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen arrives for her appearance at Randburg Magistrates Court in Johannesburg on November 8th. Photo: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/Ritzau Scanpix

After two court procedures in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon, judges decided to release Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen and a second, male suspect to be escorted by Interpol officers to the South African city’s airport.

They were then scheduled to be accompanied by Danish officers on a flight to Denmark and are expected to arrive on Friday.

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, was arrested in Johannesburg on Monday morning.

The 64-year-old has been wanted internationally by Danish authorities since the ministry went public on October 9th with details of the embezzlement affair, which spans 16 years from 2002 to 2018, and deprived the agency of in excess of 100 million kroner.

The second suspect, who was last week also arrested in South Africa in connection with the case, is protected by rules preventing his names from being made public, so his relationship to Nielsen has not been revealed.

His defence lawyer, Henrik Dupont Jørgensen, praised South African authorities for their management of the extradition appeal.

“I have nothing but praise for the South African authorities. There seems to be a very competent legal process there. I also have a positive impression of the lawyers there,” Jørgensen said.

After landing in Denmark, the two suspects will be arrested by Danish police and will appear before a judge for preliminary hearing within 24 hours, in accordance with normal procedure.

That hearing was likely to take place on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, Jørgensen told Ritzau.

READ ALSO: Primary suspect arrested in Danish social welfare embezzlement case


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.