‘Dodgy box’ operator let out on bail to shut down illegal TV service used by thousands

Ciaran Donovan released from custody for one week by which time service must be shut down, judge says

A man awaiting sentence for running an illegal ‘dodgy box’ TV subscription service has been released from custody to allow him shut down the operation.

Ciaran Donovan (41), a married father of two from Ashfield, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty last July to money laundering arising from his selling of an app linked to the King Kong Media illegal streaming service between January 2016 and March 2022.

However, the illegal service that was being used by thousands of users continued to be accessible.

Having earlier been granted bail, he was remanded in custody on April 17th last, despite pleas from his counsel, Desmond Hayes, who implored Judge Martina Baxter not to do so because of his client’s family situation.

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On Tuesday, Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing, for the prosecution, told the judge he wanted to make the “unusual” request that Donovan be released on bail, under strict conditions, as he was anxious that the continuing illegal service be closed down.

He said they were in a “chicken and egg” situation as the judge had indicated she may take Donovan’s attitude towards closing down the service into account when delivering her sentencing decision.

He asked that bail be given for the purpose of allowing the system to be taken down, and that the conditions include Donovan giving a commitment to meet a representative of Sky TV and a member of An Garda Síochána so he could hand over certain codes and URL details.

The court heard earlier this year that Donovan is facing a second set of related charges at District Court level in relation to the continuing operation of the service. Judge Baxter has delayed delivery of her sentencing decision to hear the outcome of the second set of charges.

Referring to those charges, the judge said she did not know the details but it appeared an offence had occurred when Donovan was out on bail and that an “element of aggravation” could arise.

The crime Donovan pleaded guilty to was a serious one involving the laundering of hundreds of thousands of euro, she said. Donovan was granted bail in January, and had an opportunity to shut down the service then.

The case is to be mentioned before Judge Baxter again next week, by which time the service is to be cut off, the judge said. Among the bail conditions are that Donovan put a notice on Telegram and other platforms that the service has been cut off. A representative of Sky is to check the service is no longer operating before Donovan returns to appear before the judge.

The court has heard the system being offered by Donovan allowed access to thousands of subscription channels for approximately the same price per year as such a service would usually cost per month, and that he had thousands of customers.

Illegal access to the channels was set up by criminals outside the jurisdiction who then gave access to Donovan on payment of a fee.

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