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.


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Danish tax agency was warned about embezzlement but shelved case

Misappropriation of millions of kroner at the National Board of Social Services (Socialstyrelsen), an administrative department of Denmark’s Ministry for Children and Social Affairs, could have been prevented by the country’s tax authorities, according to a report.

Danish tax agency was warned about embezzlement but shelved case
File photo: Ritzau Scanpix/Philip Davali

The Danish Tax Agency (Skattestyrelsen) did not react to an approach from the police’s economic crime agency SØIK, according to a confidential parliamentary document seen by newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen, 64, is currently in custody pending trial in the case, details of which were made public by the government on October 9th last year.

The embezzlement affair spans 16 years from 2002 to 2018, depriving the public agency of in excess of 100 million kroner.

The document which forms the basis of the new report by Ekstra Bladet is a summary by the Tax Agency after it was contacted by SØIK in 2013 in relation to suspicious transactions totalling 5 million kroner to Nielsen’s account.

But the case was dropped by the Danish Tax Agency nine months later. The agency is unable to locate records of the case and it is therefore no longer possible to check what action was taken over the SØIK flagging, Ekstra Bladet writes.

“It is completely incomprehensible that the Tax Agency can decide to just shelve the case,” Jakob Dedenroth Bernhoft, director with accountancy law firm Revisorjura, told the newspaper.

Due to confidentiality rules, the Tax Agency’s special control unit head of department Steen Bechmann Jacobsen was unable to comment on the case.

SØIK confirmed last year that it had received information of suspicious account transactions relating to the case as early as 2012. It is unclear from where the reports originated. Nielsen’s bank, Danske Bank, has declined to comment.

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

Authorities eventually began to notice irregularities after a Roskilde Municipality accountant reported a missing payment of 69,047 kroner to the Tax Agency.

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