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Russia

Oligarchs Beware: Switzerland Agrees To Give Bank Info To Russian Finance Ministry

Bad news for Russian tax evaders who’ve counted on Swiss bank accounts, as Switzerland agrees to turn over information to Moscow about account holders, particularly in relation to tax investigations.

Ruble banknotes
Ruble banknotes

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

MOSCOW - Russia and Switzerland have signed an agreement that will give the Russian Finance Ministry access to information about Russian citizens' accounts in Switzerland.

The agreement, signed over the weekend, formalizes an existing information exchange accord between the two counties regarding Russian citizens with Swiss bank accounts.

Switzerland has long been a safe harbor for investors. But in the wake of the financial crisis, it has been forced to sign agreements with a number of countries regarding the disclosure of bank account information.

The Swiss government was forced to take this unpopular step after the G20 summit in April of 2009, in the middle of the financial crisis. As a result of the meeting, Switzerland was placed on a so-called ‘grey" list of countries who have formally agreed to share financial information if other governments request it in relation to a tax investigation, but have not actually fulfilled their obligations under those agreements.

According to Swiss media, in order to get off the black list, the Swiss government will need to sign at least 12 bilateral agreements regarding information disclosure. At the moment, Switzerland has signed agreements with the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France, Mexico and Luxembourg, and some Swiss banks have made additional agreements with governments on their own.

The latest agreement allows the Russian Finance Ministry to obtain information about potential tax cheats if there is sufficient suspicion of tax evasion or fraud. The agreement was signed just before Monday's resignation of Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, following his criticism of President Dimitry Medvedev's candidacy to become Prime Minister after the next presidential elections that are expected to return Vladimir Putin to the top job.

Read more from Kommersant in Russian

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*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Society

Kleptomania, How A "Women's Pathology" Was Built On Gender And Class Bias

Between 1880 and 1930, there was a significant rise in thefts in department stores, mostly committed by women from the middle and upper classes. This situation brought with it the establishment of a new pathology: kleptomania. A century later, feminist historians have given new meaning to the practice as a protest against the social structures and oppressions of capitalism and patriarchy.

Photo of a hand in a pocket

A hand in a pocket

Julia Amigo

Kleptomania is defined as the malicious and curious propensity for theft. The legal language tends to specify that the stolen objects are not items of necessity; medically, it is explained as an uncontrollable impulse.

What seems clear is that kleptomania is a highly enigmatic condition and one of the few mental disorders that comes from the pathologization of a crime, which makes it possible to use it as a legal defense. It differs from the sporadic theft of clothing, accessories, or makeup (shoplifting) as the kleptomaniac's impulse is irresistible.

Studies have shown that less than one percent of the population suffers from kleptomania, being much more common among women (although determining exact numbers is very difficult).

The psychiatric disorders manual, DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has included kleptomania since 1962. Previously, it had already received attention from, among others, Sigmund Freud. Like nymphomania or hysteria, kleptomania became an almost exclusively female diagnosis linked to the biology of women's bodies and an “inability” to resist uncontrollable desire.

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