THE ringleader of an armed robbery syndicate which successfully carried out 16 holdups in five years and netted cash and valuables in excess of $124 million was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court. Imposing the most severe penalty provided by the law on Ho Tung-shing, Mr Justice Leong said that during the holdups a man was shot dead and another was paralysed for life after his spinal cord was shattered by a bullet. The crimes were all well-planned and Ho was the one who told the other culprits what to do, the judge said. Mr Justice Leong said it was always Ho who opened fire and it appeared that he had no hesitation to shoot when he was obstructed during the holdups or in his escape. Ho had no regard for other human life, the judge said. He said he could not imagine a worse case of its kind and the public was entitled to be protected from a man like Ho. It was the duty of the court to impose a sentence which would reflect the seriousness of the crime and the abhorrence of the community towards offences of this type. Ho, 37, had admitted 16 counts of robbery, one count of possession of an imitation firearm at the time of committing an offence, two of using a firearm with intent to resist arrest, three of attempted robbery and one of possession of arms and ammunition without a licence. Earlier yesterday, Mr Justice Leong also sentenced three other gang members who were involved in some of the holdups. Tang Yuk-tong, 32, who had pleaded guilty to four of the holdups was sentenced to 22 years' jail while Chung Yuk-lun, 34, who was convicted of two attempted robberies after trial, was given a 19-year prison term. Lee Tak-wah, 31, who also admitted taking part in four holdups was found to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was sent to a psychiatric centre for treatment for an unspecified period. Senior Crown Counsel Richard Donald had told the court that the defendants were part of a syndicate of 11 people responsible for a series of robberies and attempted robberies committed between June 1986 and November 1991. Apart from one holdup which occurred in a domestic premises, all the others took place at jewellery or watch shops in busy commercial areas and high class hotels' shopping arcades including the Mandarin Oriental and Grand Hyatt. In one of the attempted robberies, a watch shop staff member was shot dead. A passerby who joined in the chase in another holdup was accused by Ho of being meddlesome and was shot. The bullet shattered his spinal cord leaving him a paraplegic. When his Sha Tin home was raided by police on November 1, 1991, five pistols, a revolver and 47 bullets were found. Counsel for Lee, John Dunn, said his client had developed a mental illness as a result of feeling remorse for what he had done. He asked the court to follow the psychiatrists' recommendation and send him to a hospital. Rodney Pritchard, for Chung and Tang, submitted Chung had obtained nothing from the crimes while Tang had to choose between committing the offence or losing his wife and family. Ho's counsel, Keith Oderberg, said his client, who had a hearing problem, was introduced to firearms by his father who had been an auxiliary policeman.