The first is about blatant tax evasion, which is illegal just about everywhere.
Also, it is important for us if you can transfer the ADVANCE money on the personal accounts which we gave you earlier and the sum for one occasion transfer (for example, during one day) will not be more than 10,000 USD. Only in this case we can avoid big taxes and use money for our work as much as possible. Please, inform us what kind of documents and financial reports we must represent you and your administration for these money.
Briffa appeared to have problems with doing that, so the Russians proposed another method - just hand over the cash in person.
From: "Isaak M. Khalatnikov"
Subject: Keith Briffa
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 97 07:18:26 +0400 (MSD)
Thank you for the message of 5 June, 1997.
I am anderstanding your difficulties with transfering money and I think the best way for us if you will bring money to Krasnoyarsk and I give you a receipt.
The emails don't reveal what action Briffa took - whether he refused their entreaties to be paid via illegal means, or whether he caved in and aided and abetted a crime.
Regardless of the outcome, if this request was made to me, I'd really start to question the ethics and honesty of the people I was dealing with. In fact I'd be considering using someone else in future if they proposed this sort of thing. Yes, I know it's Russia, and it's a pretty wild place, but if people are prepared to do dodgy financial stuff, it generally shows that they are morally corrupt, and they are likely to undertake dodgy things in other areas of their life. It is a question of character. It is revealing.
Put it this way - how does Briffa's university feel about this sort of thing? Do they condone one of their institutes engaging in tax evasion?