A former employee of Denmark’s social services, Britta Nielsen, was sentenced to six and half years in prison on Tuesday for embezzling millions in funds, meant for people in need, over decades.
Britta Nielsen, 65, was accused of diverting 117 million Danish kroner ($17 million or 15.7 million euros) between 1993 and 2018 from the social services to her personal bank accounts by creating fictious 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 Jorgensen 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.