Two guilty of 'James Bond gun' murder plot in major EncroChat conviction

Yahya Aboukar, of Earlham Grove in Forest Gate, will next appear at the Old Bailey on March 18 2022

Paul Fontaine of Hackney and Frankie Sinclair of Cardiff have been found guilty of plotting a revenge shooting in a major EncroChat conviction. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Two gangsters who plotted a revenge shooting with a James Bond-style gun are facing years behind bars in a major EncroChat conviction.

“Middleman” Paul Fontaine, 36, of the Pembury Estate in Lower Clapton,  was found guilty of conspiracy to murder at the Old Bailey today (March 14), along with "career criminal" Frankie Sinclair, 34, of Cardiff. 

They were also found guilty of selling guns and ammunition, possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life or to enable another to do so, and supply of class A drugs.

They are the first to be found guilty of an EncroChat-related conspiracy to murder.

During the course of the trial, jurors heard Fontaine supplied the 9mm Makarov self-loading pistol used to murder Abdullahi Mahamoud in a bagel shop in Enfield, north London, on March 19, 2020.

Within weeks, he went on to arrange for a £3,000 new Walther PPK handgun for Sinclair to murder Keiron Hassan, and others in a rival group.

They were found guilty of plotting to murder Mr Hassan and the string of other offences after a jury deliberated for 14 hours.

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In messages on EncroChat, Sinclair referred to the gun – made famous by Sean Connery in the 007 film Dr No – as a “James Bond ting”.

EncroChat was a Europe-based communications network and service provider which was infiltrated by police during a Europe-wide investigation in 2020.

Throughout the course of the trial, prosecutor Kevin Dent QC described how the defendants both used EncroChat mobile devices worth £1,000 per handset.

Fontaine went under the codename “Usualwolf” and Sinclair had the handle “Nudetrain”, jurors heard.

Mr Dent said EncroChat phones carried a higher level of security, with the expectation it was “hard or impossible” for anyone on the outside to access them.

The devices could only communicate with each other – “not the kind of phone device you could order a pizza”, the barrister said.

They were equipped with a feature that allowed messages to be automatically deleted, with a “burn time” of as little as one minute, and had a “panic wipe” to delete all the data on the device.

Mr Dent told jurors: “Because these devices come with the expectation of a high level of security, we say when you look at the messages you can see Paul Fontaine and Frankie Sinclair and others were communicating in fairly open terms about the criminality they were involved in."

But law enforcement agencies were later able to get hold of EncroChat data at a time the users thought nobody would ever be able to find out what they were saying.

Mr Dent said the murder conspiracy was in revenge for an attack on the Cardiff home of Sinclair’s mother on March 31, 2020.

At the time, Fontaine was “low on stock of firearms” and turned to a third party, known as Chestbridge, jurors were told.

It was alleged that the Walther PPK handgun and ammunition was supplied to Sinclair for the planned revenge attack.

There was a problem – the bullets did not fit the gun, the court heard.

Jurors heard Sinclair took matters into his own hands and decided to pick up bullets himself in London.

On April 15, 2020, Mr Hassan was arrested for the attempted murder of Sinclair’s associates and put in custody, jurors heard.

While the defendants came together over the attack in Cardiff, messaging on EncroChat also disclosed they were separately involved in other criminal activity.

Sinclair admitted being involved in the supply of cocaine and heroin, while Fontaine denied all the charges against him, including plotting to supply heroin and possess counterfeit currency.

It can now be reported that the intended victim, Mr Hassan, and another man were jailed for 24 years in December 2020 for attempted murder.

And in August last year, Khallid Hogan, 21, from Enfield, was found guilty of murdering Mr Mohamoud following a trial at the Old Bailey, and jailed for at least 27 years.

Fontaine and Sinclair were remanded into custody to be sentenced on May 27.

Judge John Hillen QC warned some of the offences for which they were found guilty could carry a life sentence.