BUGSY Segal would turn in his grave; Nancy the cocktail waitress simply did not believe it. ''You gotta be kidding,'' she drawled. But it was true. Las Vegas, the city built up with Mafia money, last week played host to a conference on organised crime. The 15th Annual International Asian Organised Crime Conference attracted more than 1,000 police, federal agents, spooks and experts from 21 countries, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, China and Taiwan. They were there to exchange information (on Hongkong, in particular), discuss the latest legal efforts to fight drug-trafficking, credit card fraud and alien smuggling, and generally get to grips with a problem that is in danger of sliding out of control. For years, Asian organised crime came a poor second in official recognition to the Mafia. Now, in Segal's own back yard, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Mr William Sessions, turned up to spread the word. He told a packed hall: ''In America, Asian organised crime groups are moving decisively into areas once controlled by La Cosa Nostra [the Mafia]. They are especially aggressive in heroin and methamphetamine trafficking. ''Twenty years ago Chinese criminal groups in the United States were small and disorganised. Today they are rapidly expanding their operations outside the Asian community.'' Mr Sessions called for global strategies to deal with the problem, including increased intelligence, international co-operation, specialised training and the recruitment of Asians into the FBI. Conference workshops covered a range of Asian-linked topics, including organised crime groups in the US, money laundering, credit card fraud, gang homicide techniques, drug trafficking and alien smuggling. Hongkong Commissioner of Police Mr Li Kwan-ha led a group of four Hongkong detectives who spoke on narcotics, commercial crime and triads. Hongkong deputy director, crime, Mr Tsang Yam-pui, said the territory was being inundated with requests for help. ''There is a big demand for knowledge in dealing with the problems,'' he said. In another development, a senator and the head of the FBI recommended US law enforcement agencies hire former Hongkong police officers to counter the rise in Asian organised crime throughout the country. Legislation is to be introduced there to stop a ''new breed of international criminals'', including Hongkong triads and drug dealers. The call for the new legislation, aimed at cracking down on travel by criminals, was sparked by the Senate testimony of convicted Hongkong drug-trafficker Johnny Kon, now serving a 27-year sentence in the US. Kon ran an international criminal network which smuggled heroin through dozens of countries, while he ran four companies and ordered the murder of associates in Thailand and the Philippines. Mr Daniel Rinzel, a chief counsel to the US Senate Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations, said the new trends in organised crime were of great concern. ''Although we are here to focus on Asian organised crime, I believe we should recognise that Asian organised crime is only one aspect of a larger phenomenon: the emergence of what I call the 'new international criminals','' he said. ''New international criminals thrive through exploitation of modern technological developments, such as high-speed transportation, instantaneous global communications networks and encrypted fax machines. ''They benefit from relaxed travel restrictions and the greatly increased volume of international trade.'' Mr Rinzel said these developments had allowed criminal organisations based in one country to extend their operations overseas. ''Following modern international business practices, new international criminals are forming flexible and temporary relationships with other groups to achieve their goals,'' he said. ''We learned from our Senate investigation [an 18-month study of Asian organised crime] that law enforcement is not currently equipped to meet the challenges posed by this new breed of international criminal.'' He also proposed that international task forces be formed to deal with organised crime gangs operating across borders. ''Today there is no single international law enforcement agency which can assume jurisdiction,'' he said. ''Law enforcement efforts, too, often stop at international borders. Unfortunately, organised crime does not.'' Speaking on behalf of Senator William Roth, who headed the Senate study on Asian organised crime but was unable to attend the conference, Mr Rinzel said: ''I have become convinced that the only way to deal with the increasingly broad worldwide reach of criminal organisations is through strong international law enforcement co-operation.'' Mr Tsang agreed, and said Hongkong police already co-operated fully and on a regular basis with at least four major US agencies, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. The theme running through the conference was that the belief that triads were behind all Asian organised crime had been overstated. ''It is true that Hongkong's organised crime fraternity has amongst its ranks members of triad societies,'' Mr Li said in a keynote speech, ''but I cannot over-stress the fact that organised crime is not the exclusive domain of the triad, just as it is not the exclusive domain of the Mafia in America or, indeed, Italy. ''There are personal links between members of organised crime gangs in Hongkong and those overseas. ''These are, however, far short of a worldwide crime network, and while partnerships may be formed for specific criminal acts they are neither permanent nor inhibited by triad affiliations.'' Author and Chinese organised crime expert Professor Ko-lin Chin supported the belief that Asian organised crime was spreading,but doubted Chinese would ever fill the same role as La Cosa Nostra in the US. ''My view is that it will not be able to penetrate into areas controlled by La Cosa Nostra, like the unions, garment factories, construction and waste management. ''The most impact on US society will be on heroin trafficking and credit card fraud.'' He warned group identification was becoming less important and that the violence and changing gang membership seen on the West Coast of the US could be repeated in New York. ''It is just an opportunity to make money,'' he said. ''They say that if we make money everyone is happy, it doesn't really matter which group you belong to.''