A Hong Kong court yesterday put a market manipulator behind bars for six months to be served immediately, in the first immediate imprisonment case and the most severe penalty ever meted out for such a crime. Ho Lai was sentenced by Madam Adriana Tse, a magistrate at Eastern Magistracy, for 14 charges of market manipulation. Ho was also ordered to pay investigation costs of HK$11,868 to the Securities and Futures Commission. The investigation found that Ho, a former licensed representative of Tang Ping Kong, manipulated markets for both shares and warrants in five securities between May and December last year, including warrants for Citic 21 CN W0609 and QPL International Holdings W0710, and shares in Panorama International Holdings, Armitage Technology Holdings and ITE Holdings. He had placed 105 single board lot orders on 14 separate days to create false volatility and wild swings of more than 200 per cent. This brought him a total profit of HK$98,952. Legislator Sin Chung Kai, economic affairs spokesperson for the Democrats, said the severe penalty should warn other manipulators. 'Market manipulators should be punished. To put them behind bars would ensure a healthy development of the local financial industry and protect the interest of the investors,' Mr Sin said. Mark Steward, the SFC's executive director, said Ho might have received a longer jail sentence had he not admitted his misconduct yesterday. He said he the ruling sent a strong warning to any would-be market manipulators.