MONEY, the driving force behind Hong Kong life and development, is also the prime mover in the criminal world. Because of Hong Kong's near-obsession with money, police have had to form a unit to deal with crimes involving forging of currencies and monetary instruments. The Commercial Crime Bureau investigates just about anything related to finances. The CCB's success in penetrating established currency criminal syndicates is a well-documented story, but it readily concedes it has problems keeping tabs on the volume of crimes linked to the manipulation of money. The CCB was first established as a specialist unit in 1947, but it grew in size and responsibility in time as Hong Kong took on a role as a centre of trade, industry and commerce. Basically, the CCB handles such crimes as counterfeiting, forgery and complex fraud where a high degree of experience, skill and patience is required in the paper chase. The crime growth areas are indisputably counterfeiting and forgery. There have been countless cases involving counterfeiting of local and foreign currencies, forging of Hong Kong identification cards, faking of passports and fraudulent manufacture of other monetary instruments such as cheques and credit cards. Superintendent Peter Bunning, senior staff officer of the Counterfeit and Forgery unit, said Hong Kong remained at the centre of an international boom in credit card fraud. He said rapidly improving technology was encouraging currency counterfeiting. ''It is really quite amazing what can be done with a colour photocopier or a computer these days,'' he said. As for combatting credit card fraud, Mr Bunning said there was still a long way to go. ''Obviously, the ultimate answer lies in the development of a better, more secure product.'' The CCB has had to forge close links with international agencies because of the cross-nation nature of financial crime. Last month, in arguably the CCB's most celebrated victory, a Hong Kong criminal at the centre of one of the world's largest fake credit card frauds was sentenced to jail for six years in the United States. Tam Wai-keung, 37, was the mastermind of a gang which bought over HK$3.9 billion worth of goods with cards forged in a factory in Macau and later used in Hong Kong, Europe, the US and Puerto Rico.