Jailed: Hackney fixer given life-sentence for EncroChat murder plot

EncroChat criminals Frankie Sinclair (left), 34, from Cardiff and Paul Fontaine - of the Pembury Estate in Hackney

EncroChat criminals Frankie Sinclair (left), 34, from Cardiff, and Paul Fontaine - of the Pembury Estate in Hackney - Credit: PA

A Hackney criminal has been jailed for life for his role in an EncroChat murder plot involving a James Bond-style gun. 

Fixer Paul Fontaine - of the Pembury Estate in Lower Clapton - supplied a 9mm Makarov self-loading pistol used to murder Abdullahi Mahamoud in a bagel shop in Enfield on March 19, 2020.

Weeks later, he helped arrange to supply a new Walther PPK handgun to Cardiff career criminal Frankie Sinclair to murder Keiron Hassan, and others in a rival group.

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”.

Following an Old Bailey trial, Fontaine, 36, and co-defendant Sinclair, 34, from Cardiff, south Wales, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder and a string of other offences.

Paul Fontaine who has been found guilty of plotting to murder at the Old Bailey

Paul Fontaine who has been found guilty of plotting to murder at the Old Bailey - Credit: PA

The two were members of a nationwide criminal communications network used primarily by organised crime members to carry out illegal activities. 

On Friday (May 27), Judge John Hillen jailed the pair for life with a minimum term of 18 years.

The judge noted the plot had arisen from an ongoing dispute over who was “going to dominate the drug dealing” in Cardiff.

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He said Sinclair wanted to “create a drug dealing empire” which would “bring misery“ to addicts while Fontaine was more than just the armourer.

He told the defendants: “It’s plain from the verdict of the jury, based as it was from the messaging involving both of you, that you (Sinclair) intended to kill Keiron Hassan, to kill his cousin, and possibly another person would be killed.”

“They were to be murdered by shooting them with a firearm or firearms with ammunition you, Paul Fontaine, were to supply for that purpose.”

Co-defendant Frankie Sinclair

Co-defendant Frankie Sinclair

He described Fontaine’s interest in an earlier Enfield killing as “unfeeling”, “unnatural” and “chilling”.

Last year, Khallid Hogan, 21, from Enfield, was found guilty of murdering Mr Mohamoud and jailed for at least 27 years.

Sinclair and Fontaine are the first to be found guilty of an EncroChat-related conspiracy to murder.

Previously prosecutor Kevin Dent QC told jurors that the defendants did not “beat about the bush” in the encrypted messages.

Law enforcement agencies were 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 that the murder conspiracy was in revenge for an attack on the Cardiff home of Sinclair’s mother on March 31, 2020.

He told jurors: “Frankie Sinclair wanted help from Mr Fontaine supplying a firearm and ammunition so that Mr Sinclair could carry out a revenge murder for the shooting that had happened at his mother’s house.”

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.

EncroChat messages referred to “straps” and “sweets” said to be slang for firearms and bullets.

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

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.

Sinclair was accused of amassing “significant amounts of cash” from his drugs business.

Mr Dent said the defendants both used EncroChat mobile devices, which cost £1,000 per handset.

Fontaine and Sinclair were found guilty of the offences against them after a jury deliberated for more than 14 hours.

Judge Hillen ordered sentences for other offences should run concurrently to the life term.

Previously, Det Ch Insp Driss Hayoukane, from Scotland Yard, said: “It is ironic that the steps taken by both Mr Sinclair and Mr Fontaine to conceal their conspiracies sealed their fate, presenting us with the very evidence to convict them.”