Timeline: Ex-pirate radio chief jailed for £30m Sky card scam

Ex-pirate radio chief jailed for £30m Sky card scam was a headline from The Irish Independent dated April 3rd 1998

Irish Independent – April 3rd 1998

Ex-pirate radio chief jailed for £30m Sky card scam

A former pirate radio supremo was jailed for four years in Britain yesterday for costing Sky TV £30m in a smartcard scam.

Chris Cary (51), who was chief of Dublin’s Radio Nova in the 1980s and a former DJ with Radio Caroline under the name Spangles Muldoon, spent years trying to crack the secrets of the Sky cards, Kingston Crown Court in Surrey was told.

He was described in court as Europe’s leading smartcard pirate.

Judge Richard Haworth told him: “You were the orchestrator and principal player in a sophisticated hi-tech commercial venture. It was planned and executed with great care and skill.

“In 1995 and 1996 you were the leading manufacturer and vendor of pirate smartcards. Your criminal activity was not a by-product of a legitimate enterprise, this fraud was your full-time occupation.”

The court heard that in a bid to beat the fraudsters, BSkyB had spent more then £30m bringing out a succession of smartcards.

When the pirates cracked one code, another even more sophisticated card had to be developed.

The judge was told that Cary’s Megatek company in Dublin was taking £20,000 a day until he and his accomplices were arrested in June 1996 through the undercover efforts of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and police.

Cary, of Weybridge, Surrey, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud BSkyB with his ex-wife Remi, and another man.

The lucrative scam involved pirates cracking the smartcard codes which authorise decoders to unscramble different satellite channels and selling cheaper versions to Sky customers.


Timothy Langdale QC, prosecuting on behalf of FACT, said at an earlier hearing that Cary’s operation moved from Surrey to a shop in Dun Laoghaire shopping centre after two earlier companies operating the scam were closed down by High Court injunctions.

Regarded as a rebel, colleagues said Cary had a total disregard for rules but Nova, in its six-year history, had a 62pc share of the Dublin audience with his formula of ‘jingle, record, record, ad’ with as little talk as possible.

He subsequently bid for the national radio franchise which went to Century but a wrangle with the NUJ over union recognition eventually led to the closure of Nova.

Cary said Nova was the number one station in Dublin for four years and turned over £20m.

Copyright Unison.ie

Tony Allan is seriously ill

The Radio Caroline website reports that broadcasting legend Tony Allan is seriously ill in the Royal Free Hospital in London. Best remembered here in Ireland for his time at Radio Nova, Tony has also worked with Radio Caroline and R.N.I. The report on the website says that he wants no visitors at this time but he is feeling lonely and they ask that anyone who remembers him might send a card, letter or gift to their London offices.
Tony at Radio Nova

The Radio Caroline website reports that broadcasting legend Tony Allan is seriously ill in the Royal Free Hospital in London. Best remembered here in Ireland for his time at Radio Nova, Tony has also worked with Radio Caroline and R.N.I. The report on the website says that he wants no visitors at this time but he is feeling lonely and they ask that anyone who remembers him might send a card, letter or gift to their London offices.

Report: Alex Jenkins
Photo: Joseph King

New website for XFM

XFM, the long-running alternative radio station broadcasting to Dublin on 107.9MHz, have launched a new-look website. It can be viewed at www.isis.ie/xfm/.

Report: Sean Hyland

A ‘Grey Wednesday’ for Dublin’s Pirates

Dublin’s FM band was totally clear of unlicensed activity today for the first time since last year’s May ‘Black Tuesday’ raids. Every Dublin-based pirate station was off the air, the vast majority for precautionary reasons.

The unlicensed community have been fearing the worst for the past couple of weeks, and most stations decided not to take the chance of having their equipment confiscated.

ComReg visited some mountain sites today, but it is thought that this was simply to warn landowners of the possible threat of court action for allowing unlicensed broadcasts to originate from their property. However, they have been seen taking photographs of station’s sites in the recent past – usually a precursor to obtaining court warrants in order to enter the property – and this has sent panic through the radio community.

Dance music station Club FM were the last pirate broadcaster on air today. They stopped transmissions at just after 1pm this afternoon. At this stage, every other station had already turned off.

Rhythm FM, who broadcast on 105.7MHz FM, switched off their transmitter last night, as did those behind the carrier on 88.1MHz FM. Other stations had already switched off in the past few days, and those that were left turned off their equipment this morning.

Amongst the stations off the air are: UCB relay on 87.6MHz FM; Jazz FM (90.3MHz); Sugar FM (91.0MHz); the unidentified station on 91.6MHz FM; Ministry FM (93.2MHz); Hot FM (94.1MHz); Nova 947; Gem Radio (97.8MHz); The Vibe (99.4MHz); & Sun FM (101.3MHz).

Today, the only pirate station audible around Dublin city was Passion FM, beaming in on 91.6MHz FM from Kildare. However, by this evening, the usual batch of low-powered stations were back on the air from various locations around the city. Included were: Galaxy 105.3, who have been running live programming tonight; Energy, running automated dance music on 107.6MHz FM; and XFM, the long-term alternative music station who were broadcasting on their usual 107.9MHz.

ComReg have been very active in other parts of the country recently. However, Dublin’s pirates have been relatively free from Comreg interference since the massive attacks of May 20th last year – commonly referred to as ‘Black Tuesday’. Many feel that ComReg are preparing to strike again whilst the memory of last year’s actions are still fresh in the minds.

New series for schools starts on na Life

A  brand new radio series for primary school children commences today at 6pm on Raidió na Life 106.4FM, Dublin’s Irish Language radio station. Raidió na nÓg is hosted by TG4 television personality Niall MacDonagh and will be available to almost 470 schools around Dublin city and county. Each week Raidió na nÓg profiles a different primary school, where the kids get the opportunity to introduce us to their own school from their own unique perspective. The show will feature special guests, reviews, comedy scetches and competitions. One of the main aims of the series is to encourage children between the ages of seven and twelve to listen to radio in a fun and educational way. The shows will also be available online as podcasts from the station’s website, allowing teachers to play it back in the classroom.

Featuring uniquely commissioned music from Stellarsound, Raidió na nÓg is produced by Fíbín Teo for Raidió na Life 106.4FM, and is part-funded by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (www.bci.ie)

Radio Nova regenerated 40 years on

In June 1981 the face of radio in Ireland was changed forever with the launch of Radio Nova. The Dublin mega-super-pirate is forever held up as a shining example of how to properly engage the listener and is still reverentially talked about to this day.

However, one of the original station’s favourite sons has done more than just talk – he’s acted. With a proposed launch date of June 29th 2021, 40 years to the day since the official start date of the original, Lawrence John plans to introduce the Radio Nova sound to a whole new generation.

In a statement just released, Lawrence says:

Radio Nova relaunch

“With the time afforded to me during the first [Covid 19] lockdown in March last year, I had an opportunity to listen to the new FM stations licensed a few years after Radio Nova’s closure. I left Dublin before those stations were licensed, so I’d never heard any of them and presumed all was going well. So when I finally heard them for the first time…shock, horror, it was as if nobody had learned anything from Chris Cary and Radio Nova.

“The success of the pirates, and Nova in particular, was entirely due to the excitement, passion and creativity they offered compared to the safe and conservative output of RTÉ. Thirty years later and the whole thing has gone full circle, the newly licensed stations, have become mini-versions of RTÉ.

“Where did it all go wrong?!!

“Anyway, I started chatting to former colleagues who, to a man, were of a similar opinion and eventually I concluded something had to be done to remedy the situation. I started to produce some syndicated radio shows which I thought stations might use to give a bit more variety, or add a little spice to their output. However, after producing a few shows, I decided what Dublin really needed was another Radio Nova. So, I thought, why not re-launch Radio Nova. With my experience of founding and creating a number of stations, including Dublin’s original Q102 and the Northern Ireland super pirate Energy 106, it seemed like a good idea.

Lawrence John

“My plans were met with a thumbs-up from my old Radio Nova colleagues and so I set about planning a relaunch and here we are three months later. Just like the original Nova the new version will also take time to put plans into place, but we’ll get there. The backbone of the musical output will be all the old Nova favourites, with similar-sounding new titles that Chris Cary himself might’ve added in the intervening years.

“You’ll also hear the original jingles, (remastered) some with a new twist and we’ve got some great new Radio Nova sweepers.”

The new Radio Nova have already lodged an application for a DAB licence in Belfast and Lawrence aims to push for both a DAB  and FM licence in Dublin.

He continues: “Of course, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle but, if the newly-relaunched Radio Nova is even half as good as the original, it should be twice as good as any FM station in Dublin. I should add that, unlike Dublin’s FM stations which are mostly run by big radio groups, the new Nova will be run on a not-for-profit basis.

“Radio Nova (or Radio Nova – Smooth Hits to avoid confusion with other Novas around the world) is all about the music. Check out the memories and previews daily initially 7-9pm in the coming weeks with looped, syndicated shows from Casey Kasem, Rick Dees and Gary Owens – all big favourites on the original Radio Nova.”

Until a DAB or FM licence comes along the station will be available online.

Listen 24/7 directly on their website radionovainternational.co or on your smart speaker. Say “Alexa, play Radio Nova – Smooth Hits.

Or visit their Facebook page here.”