World – A former employee of a Danish state welfare agency was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison on Tuesday for stealing millions from the agency.
The Copenhagen city court found Britta Nielsen, 65, guilty of multiple counts of cheating the National Board of Social Services, and of having transferred at least 117 million kroner (17 million dollars) to her own accounts during a 25-year period.
Prosecutors last week urged the Copenhagen city court to consider a prison term of more than eight years for Nielsen.
"We have just heard the court hand down a very strict judgement, which is in line with the most serious cases of financial crime. So we are happy with that," prosecutor Lisbeth Jorgensen told reporters.
Prosecutors have two weeks to consider whether to appeal Tuesday’s sentence.
The court said it had taken into consideration the size of the sums and the period of time the fraud had gone on.
Nielsen "abused her position," judge Vivi Sonderskov said.
The agency concerned supports local authorities and funds programmes for vulnerable groups, including children and youth.
The scam was detected at the end of September 2018 during an audit.
When the trial opened in October, Nielsen admitted to some of the crimes but could not recall all the transactions covered in the charges, which ran from 1993 to 2018.
The court ruling noted that some funds were transferred even after Nielsen had been alerted by a colleague that she was under review.
Some of the embezzled funds were used to buy property in South Africa and expensive cars. Nielsen was extradited to Denmark from South Africa in November 2018.
Minutes after the sentence was announced, Nielsen’s lawyer said she accepted the sentence.
Her lawyer, Nima Nabipour, later told reporters that Nielsen was "relieved" that the trial was over, while he welcomed the fact that the prison term was less than eight years.
Last week, Nabipour argued that only transactions since 2009 should be considered, citing the statute of limitations, and called for a sentence of four to six years in prison.
Nielsen was also ordered to pay the state’s legal costs.
Her three children, two daughters and a son, were recently charged with receiving stolen funds from their mother worth about 50 million kroner. The trio have denied the charges.