It’s the biggest trial since Peter Madsen – and arguably the second largest of the 21st century in Denmark – and it starts today at Copenhagen City Court. In total, nine court days have been set aside, with a verdict expected on November 29.
Like Madsen, the public have already convicted Britta Nielsen, the book-keeper accused of embezzling 117 million kroner from the national purse.
But does the 65-year-old have a strong defence – after all, very little of the proceeds have been traced, so how strong is the public prosecutor’s case?
Robin Hood in reverse
Nielsen stands accused of gross fraud, misconduct and forgery, and she will likely face a prison sentence of between 8 and 12 years if found guilty. While the maximum sentence for serious fraud is eight years, the prosecution can easily request an increase to 12 years.
The evidence against her is strong, as she left a considerable paper trail transferring funds from Socialstyrelsen, the national health board, to accounts held under her name during a period between 1993 and 2018.
The money she took was earmarked for some of the most needy people in society. A DR3 video (see below) depicting her crime portrays Nielsen as a Robin Hood figure, only she doesn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor, she just steals from the poor.
Nielsen can’t wait to explain
The first three days of the trial will be devoted to Nielsen’s explanation, during which time the prosecutor and her defence team will ask questions. It should therefore become clear whether she is admitting to some of the crimes, or claiming she is completely innocent.
In early November 2018, after her arrest in South Africa, Nielsen told the local police force that she would help the authorities “recover and/or seize assets, which include income from illegal activities and/or money laundering”.
However, days later at a constitutional hearing in Denmark on November 10, she neither pleaded guilty nor innocent, and according to sources close to the investigation she has been of little help in locating the missing assets.
Nielsen will be represented by Nima Nabipour, who has told media that his client is “excited” and “looking forward” to her day in court.
The case is expected to address a number of long-lingering questions.
Firstly, how was Nielsen able to embezzle for so long? It is believed she created fictitious projects and associations to siphon off the funds, but more details are likely to come out in the trial.
Secondly, why did the police fail to investigate Nielsen after they received a tip-off of suspicious transfers to her accounts in 2012?
Thirdly, where is the money? Barely 5 million of the 117 million kroner has been traced. Nielsen is believed to have spent/invested the proceeds in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa.