POLICE are set to launch a special intelligence investigation into East European gangs amid concerns that an increase in international travel has led to a surge in crime. It is understood the Crime Wing wants to examine dealings of ''businessmen'' linked to former Soviet bloc nations. Police sources say the freeing of entry restrictions between Eastern Europe and Hong Kong in 1992 may have brought with it a number of gangs eager to launder funds by establishing criminal links with territory gangsters. Last year, there was a 52 per cent rise in the number of travellers to Hong Kong from Eastern Europe. The investigation follows police warnings that the collapse of security at nuclear installations in former communist regimes could see the territory being targeted as a possible clearing-house for dealings in weapons of mass destruction. It signals the speed by which criminals, especially those linked to Russian organised crime syndicates, have expanded operations. One officer, who confirmed the intelligence exercise, said: ''Although we have not yet decided how we will go about it, there are no shortages of places where we can get information.'' It was reported yesterday that intelligence agencies had information pointing to the involvement of Russian criminals in the smuggling of materials for use in nuclear arms. The South China Morning Post quoted Macau authorities as suggesting a nuclear trigger, red mercury, had recently been loaded on to a Hong Kong ship in international waters. Macau police yesterday denied the claim. Acting Director of the Judiciary Police, Albano Cabral, described the reports as a ''product of [the] imagination''. The Russian Counsul-General, Kivill Ivanor, said yesterday he was concerned by his nation's crime plague. Mr Ivanor said Russian authorities were focusing on cracking economic crime - fraud and smuggling - as well as drug trafficking and offences with an international character. When asked about the problems posed by Russian organised crime, Mr Ivanor replied: ''We are taking this quite seriously as a threat to the economic and social development of Russia.'' He said measures had been introduced to allow police and other state bodies to fight the increase in crime. ''At the same time, we are increasing co-operation with Interpol and other relevant bodies,'' Mr Ivanor said. Mr Ivanor said Russia hoped to soon set up an official mission in Macau. Macau's Second Commander of the Public Security Police, Lieutentant-Colonel Jose Manuel Viana, yesterday denied a Post report that there had been an inquiry launched into the murders in Vladivostok of Hong Kong lawyer Gary Alderdice QC, and his Russian girlfriend, Natalie Samoflava.