Reputation is fundamental to Hong Kong’s role as a financial centre. This is especially so since Guo Shuqing, head of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, recently said the city has a vital role to play in the nation’s “dual circulation” economic development, internationalisation of the yuan and the Greater Bay Area growth vision. With that mission the city cannot afford to be linked to money laundering. The arrest of seven current and former Hong Kong bankers in a swoop on a laundering ring is therefore a worry. This followed an investigation of an international syndicate alleged to have handled HK$6.3 billion in the proceeds of crime, some of it linked to online deception cases. The seven, all customer relations officers, are alleged to have used inside knowledge to help 16 Belgians and mainlanders open 14 business accounts at two banks with forged documents and fake ID cards. It was one of the biggest operations of its kind and a wake-up call to the attraction of Hong Kong to multinational crime syndicates, whether it be for washing “dirty” money, or trafficking in drugs or people. This follows the arrest of 10 domestic helpers over bank accounts linked to money laundering and online scams. Hong Kong’s bitcoin ATMs are safe from regulators, but for how long? These activities are not surprising given that the city is Asia’s financial centre. For money laundering there are only so many places wrongdoers can turn to. It has always been an issue in Hong Kong and big instances often involve criminals from other countries. The suspension of extradition treaties by a number of foreign governments over the national security law is not helping. If our law enforcement agencies cannot have meaningful relations with foreign counterparts, and Hong Kong continues to be a free port and financial centre of Asia, then we can expect to see the city increasingly being used by the syndicates. The authorities consistently deny that Hong Kong is a hub for drug and people trafficking. But it is an Asian crossroads, a free port and an entrepot between East and West – obvious attractions to traffickers and launderers. We trust that in defending the city’s image officials put their faith in actions as well as words.