Church volunteer with secret life as underworld fixer through EncroChat phone is jailed for life


A CHURCH volunteer, who had a secret life as an underworld fixer, has been jailed for life for his role in supplying guns, including one used to murder a London gangster.

Dad-of-four Paul Fontaine, 36, (above) also supplied a James Bond-style gun to Cardiff drug dealer Frankie Sinclair, 34, who planned to assassinate at least two rivals, the Old Bailey heard.

Both were jailed for life with minimum 18 year terms at their sentencing on Friday.

The pair were earlier found guilty of conspiracy to murder and a string of other offences at the court on March 14.

The court heard that Fontaine, from north London, had been helping at his local church and delivering food parcels during the first coronavirus lockdown.

But, at the same time he was using the encrypted EncroChat mobile phone system to act as a middle man for gangsters and street gangs who wanted access to drugs, firearms, ammunition and counterfeit money.

The Old Bailey heard how Fontaine had supplied a 9mm Makarov self-loading pistol used to murder Abdullahi Mahamoud (below) in a bagel shop in Enfield, north London, on March 19, 2020.

In messages sent on EncroChat he bragged he had trouble sourcing more guns as two had been used in murders.

From details in the messages police confirmed one was the murder of Mr Mahamoud, the other was not identified.

Judge John Hillen described Fontaine's interest in Mr Mahamoud's murder as "unfeeling", "unnatural" and "chilling".

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

In messages Fontaine described Hogan as "one of his boys," but relatives of Fontaine had sent glowing references to Judge Hillen about his charitable and fatherly activities.

Judge Hillen added: "When I look at the references it almost beggars belief the other side of your character.

"You had a chilling interest in that murder and sent snapchat images of paramedics working to save Mr Mahamoud's life."

Just weeks after supplying the gun used to kill Mr Mahamoud, Fontaine, who had nine previous convictions for 27 offences including cocaine supply, arranged to supply a Walther PPK gun, made famous in Bond film Dr No, to Sinclair (above) for £3,000 to murder rival drug dealer Keiron Hassan and his cousin, so he could dominate drug dealing in Cardiff.

The court heard Sinclair had 43 previous conviction for 95 offences, including cocaine supply.

The plot to murder Hassan was identified after police in the UK were given access to historic and live EncroChat messaging after French and Dutch police hacked into the network believed to have been largely used by criminals.

In recovered messages Sinclair described the gun as a "James Bond ting".

The messages exposed a network of criminals stretching from London to Cardiff, the Midlands, Manchester and the north east where weapons were sourced from.

Judge Hillen said Fontaine's role was more than supplying the gun and he was involved in the conspiracy to murder Hassan.

He said: "You were both part, via EncroChat, of a nationwide criminal network.

"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."

The court heard the murder plot was in revenge for an attack on the home of Sinclair's mother on March 3, 2020.

Sinclair earlier admitted being involved in the large-scale supply of cocaine and heroin across Cardiff.

Fontaine denied plotting to supply heroin and possessing counterfeit currency, but was also found guilty of these.

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.”

Detective Sergeant Paula Eveleigh-Williams, from South Wales Police, said: “Frankie Sinclair is a violent and dangerous individual who has long history of criminality and drug dealing in Cardiff.

“He thought he was above the law and that by using encrypted devices he would be untouchable.

“But he was wrong and, as a result of collaborative working between the South Wales Police Major Crime Investigations Team and the Metropolitan Police, he has been convicted of these serious violent offences.

“The use of firearms in South Wales is extremely rare and when it does happen, as Frankie Sinclair has found out, we are determined to go after those involved.”

DCI Hayoukane added: “I want to pay particular attention to Detective Constable Dave Leitner for his outstanding work in bringing these two men to justice. Without his tenacity, dedication and hard work it is likely that they may have escaped full justice.

“They both now face long prison sentences, during which I hope they reflect upon their choices.”


ESSEX NEWS AND INVESTIGATIONS OPINION

The EncroChat investigations have sparked a huge backlash from relatives of defendants.

There are questions over how the hack into the encrypted phone system took place, the disclosure of evidence in trials and the admissibility of "live intercept" EncroChat evidence into British courts.

Some began a series of protests outside EncroChat trials up and down the country as revealed by Essex News and Investigations earlier this month.

Protestors gathered outside the Old Bailey on the day of the sentence of Sinclair and Fontaine last week.

On this occasion I think they got it wrong. Fontaine and Sinclair are career criminals who were clearly involved at high echelons of organised crime who were plotting to kill.

Staging a protest outside their sentence was not going to garner any support for their cause.