Members of nationwide criminal network jailed for life over EncroChat murder plot

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

Emily Pennink
Friday 27 May 2022 13:16
A general view of the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey, London.
A general view of the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey, London.

Two members of a nationwide criminal network have been jailed for life for an EncroChat murder plot involving a James Bond-style gun.

Jurors heard how fixer Paul Fontaine had supplied a 9mm Makarov self-loading pistol used to murder Abdullahi Mahamoud in a bagel shop in Enfield, north London, 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”.

Paul Fontaine was found guilty of plotting a murder via EncroChat (Met Police/PA)

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

On Friday, 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.

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: “You were both part, via Encrochat, of a nationwide criminal network.

Frankie Sinclair, was found guilty of plotting to murder at the Old Bailey (Met Police/PA)

“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.”

He described Fontaine’s interest in the 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.

Khallid Hogan was found guilty of murdering Abdullahi Mohamoud at a bagel shop in Enfield, north London (Met Police/PA)

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.

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 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.

Chat referred to “straps” and “sweets” said to be slang for firearms and bullets, and “duppy”, slang for ghost.

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.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

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

Det Ch Insp Driss Hayoukane

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, Detective Chief Inspector Driss Hayoukane, from Scotland Yard, said the defendants were both “dangerous men” and the conviction was “testament to the hard work of officers across England and Wales”.

He said: “Paul Fontaine and Frankie Sinclair clearly believed using encrypted devices rendered them untouchable and sought to commit the most violent of crimes.

“However, the Metropolitan Police is unceasing in its efforts to target and dismantle organised criminal networks which seek to blight our communities.

“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.”

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