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 was found guilty of supplying a 9mm Makarov self-loading pistol used to murder Abdullahi Mahamoud in a bagel shop Enfield, north London, on March 19 2020.
Within weeks, he went on to help arrange for a new Walther PPK handgun for 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, from Hackney, north London, and Sinclair, 34, from Cardiff, south Wales, were found guilty of plotting to murder Mr Hassan and a string of other offences.
They are the first to be found guilty of an EncroChat-related conspiracy to murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Driss Hayoukane, from Scotland Yard, said: “Two dangerous men have been convicted in this case and this is testament to the hard work of officers across England and Wales.
“Without us working in collaboration, this would never have succeeded.
“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.”
Previously the court had heard that Sinclair already had 43 convictions for 95 matters, which was described as a “career in crime”.
Prosecutor Kevin Dent QC told jurors that the defendants did not “beat about the bush” in the EncroChat 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.
“During the course of their messaging, Mr Fontaine indicated that he was running short on his own supply of firearms… because part of his stock had been used in a murder that had taken place a couple of weeks earlier,” Mr Dent said.
It was alleged that the Walther PPK handgun and ammunition was supplied to Sinclair for the planned revenge attack.
Other chat referred to “straps” and “sweets” said to be slang for firearms and bullets and “duppy” slang for ghost.
There was only one problem – the bullets did not fit the gun, the court heard.
On the evening of April 1 2020, Sinclair messaged “wrong size” and an image of the Walther PPK.
Jurors heard Sinclair took matters into his own hands and decided to pick up bullets himself in London.
Fontaine messaged: “There’s 37 of them so give him £370.”
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, it was alleged.
Sinclair has 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 also 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 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 – “so not the kind of phone device you could order a pizza”, the lawyer said.
They were equipped with a feature that allowed messages to be automatically deleted, with a “burn time” of as little as one minute.
They also had a “panic wipe” to delete all the data on the device.
Mr Dent told jurors: “Because these devices come with the expectation of 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.
“We suggest that they were pretty up front and explicit.
“There was no beating about the bush, which makes sense when there was this expectation of privacy.”
Mr Dent added: “Now, it does not seem this was such a good idea.”
During the trial, Fontaine declined to give evidence but it was claimed on his behalf that he was not the user of the “Usualwolf” handle.
In his defence, Sinclair claimed he only wanted a fake gun and ammunition.
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 subsequently jailed for at least 27 years.
Fontaine and Sinclair were found guilty on Monday after a jury deliberated for more than 14 hours.
They were remanded into custody to be sentenced on May 27.
Judge John Hillen QC warned that some of the offences for which they were found guilty could carry a life sentence.