'Kas will not be going to jail,' says Virginia Macari
Here Virginia Macari tells Barry Egan exclusively and painfully about the biggest struggle of her life; how she is coping with it all; living in Marbella; the effect it has had on her relationship with Kas; why she wants to come home to Ireland and that she has already booked her young son Thor into a primary school in Dublin. Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Nikki Cummins
This is her only interview since the scandal about her fiance Kas Dahl's alleged criminal past broke during the summer.
'If you're going through hell," Winston Churchill once said, "keep going." That's precisely what Virginia Macari has been doing for the past three months. She's had no alternative. Overnight, seemingly, her once charmed life became like an episode of Love/Hate. She was suddenly living with an alleged criminal in Marbella.
The news of a €4m fraud charge against her fiance must have blotted out the sun in southern Spain.
"I feel it's very strange to have this photo shoot accompanying my interview," she says, during a conversation that took months of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to organise.
"These photographs were taken months before [her fiance Kaste Dahl was arrested] so I would love the readers to know that," Virginia continues. "I am very shy when you first meet me. So it is weird to have done a sexy shoot like that, but being asked to do it at the age of 38 I thought: 'Why not? When would I get another opportunity like this?'
The 38-year-old Dubliner woke up one morning to find herself on the front pages in relation to what her fiance Kas was alleged to have done in Norway some years ago: "The criminal career of socialite Virginia Macari's Nordic Adonis: art thief, drug smuggler, fraudster . . . gun-toting bagman to a violent gang boss."
Whatever way you dressed it up, it didn't look good. How could it?
The man with whom Virginia had a young child (Thor, born on February 20, 2012, at 2.47am, weighing 7.15lbs) was under a dark cloud of suspicion concerning drug smuggling, fraud and various other crimes that didn't look too well on the press-cuttings file of the former star of TV3's Dublin Wives.
Her romantic partner since 2009 (they got engaged on a boat in New York's Central Park on May 28, 2012) was arrested in Spain and pleaded guilty to fraud charges in Norway earlier this year.
Characteristically, Virginia has tried to put a brave face on it, but no one particularly believes her when she says she has had a good summer. (Yet you can understand why she would say it.) As Kas's convoluted legal proceedings come to a head, Virginia and Kas must be facing a winter of discontent in Marbella.
Perverse at it may sound, Virginia and Kas's relationship may almost be strengthened by all that has befallen them. Out of the painful adversity has emerged a new bond.
As much as the Irish nation revels in judging people - and getting its collective rocks off with schadenfreude - Virginia Macari can't put her life on hold because of what has happened to her. She has to keep living her life, for her sake and for the sake of her two-year-old child.
I begin by asking Virginia what was the lowest point of the last year for her.
"The morning he left for Malaga," she answers. "Kas kissed me and hugged me and said: 'I already miss you', as he always does when he travels. It was around lunchtime when he rang and told me he was arrested. I screamed down the phone: 'For what?'"
"And that was it," she continues.
"I didn't hear from him for three days. I went into full functional overdrive that day. I called my family and told them."
Virginia says that she needed the support. But she also needed, she says, "to be brave and to be strong. I was numb."
When was Kas arrested?
"March," she says. "And he was released a few days after he was sent to Norway . . . after his interview."
Virginia can remember vividly waking up the next morning after Kas's arrest in shock. Absolute shock.
"It was almost like a reverse nightmare," she says, "like when you wake up from a nightmare, you're so relieved. But I woke up into a nightmare," she says. "I felt like I was grieving. I still didn't know what was going on. I thought I was never going to see him again. That was the lowest point of my life."
And how do you feel today?
"Well," she says slowly, "it wasn't easy when the story about Kas hit the papers. I was frightened that my family wouldn't take it well, but they were a tower of strength. They know how amazing Kas is. They know what a caring father and intelligent man he is. When they told us that they would always be there for us, it felt good, but it still hurt me reading what the papers wrote.
"We didn't expect the papers to exaggerate and twist the story and add to it like they did. I suppose they wanted to glamourise their article to make it more shocking. The way they associated him with one of Norway's biggest criminals whom had committed a large bank robbery was hurtful and damaging. You know, Kas is also friends with the royal family. Does that make him a king?"
Do you believe Kas has made mistakes?
"Yes," she says, "he's made mistakes. He has regrets. I know he has a past and I certainly do not condone criminal activity. When I met him, he told me he had skeletons in his closet, but I had already made my choice. I didn't fall in love with him because of his past. I fell in love with him because of the future."
How has all this affected your relationship with Kas?
"We are good together," she answers. "The best relationships are the best not because they have been the perfect ones - they are that way because they have stayed strong through the storms. I'm not going to cling to a negative image from the past. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys," she says.
Virginia uses phrases such as: "I learnt from it and I've let it go"; "I don't give considerate thoughts to inconsiderate people"; and "I forgive the past. It is over."
What is the latest on Kas's situation legally?
"After the investigation ends, which could take another year, he won't be going to prison as reported," she believes. "Kas's subjective guilt is still to be determined. I know he 100pc won't be going to prison. He was charged with giving the wrong info to the bank."
I ask her if she truly believes that, if she can really be totally sure that Kas isn't heading for jail.
"Is he? It is up to the judge to decide in the end," she says, "and as far as we know so far, he won't be going to prison."
Virginia is honest enough to admit that she was "frightened of the reaction we would get socially". But she says that, "when I turned on my phone the day after the headlines, I was overcome with emotion with the amount of beautiful and loving messages and calls we got. From friends, colleagues, family and even people I have never met. Everyone telling me to stay strong and that they love us no matter what."
This has helped her, she says, "immensely. I still haven't gotten round to answering everybody yet but I will."
Virginia adds that she is lucky, too, to have such a strong and loving family. Her mother, Clara, she says, has been "a rock. She is a real Italian powerhouse mother but is also graceful, gentle and beautiful. She has always been there for me - through thick and thin."
Virginia, who has Italian blood in her, adds that there is an Italian saying, 'Amore di madre, amore senza limiti', which is roughly translates as, 'A mother's love has no limits.'
"I know I've tested those limits many times," Virginia admits. "We have a great relationship. She is an inspiration. And my father Romano and his lovely wife June, who live here in Spain, I really don't know where I'd be without them. We spend so much time with them in their Irish bar Baby Murphy's in Puerto Marina, and their Irish/American diner called Rockies in Montemar.
Dad is one of the most loving and encouraging people I know," Virginia says, adding that she takes strength from being close to her father. "I have many of his qualities. We are very close. I'm a real family person. I love to be near them."
When I spoke to Virginia she was keen to stress: "You have to realise, this was just a few weeks of our lives. When it happened I wasn't crying in front of everyone to see. I wept at home alone. I waited until Thor went to sleep and I just let it all out. They were heavy tears. I can't cry more than I've cried. I've been in the lowest of lows, I experienced what it's like to be down, but I've come out the other end. It's my personality to overcome things.
"If I were sunk in the lowest pits of the Pacific Ocean with the Himalayas piled on top of me, I could only show faith, and keep up my courage. I'm a strong woman."
"The worst is over now," she claims. "We've moved on. Of course it was hard that it hit the papers as well. It's not pleasant everyone reading your woes."
I asked her how has she dealt with recent events. Her answer says more about Virginia Macari than I can here.
"I have dealt with recent events by being positive and looking forward to the future," she says.
"Kas is still working alongside one of the world's most successful and established firms. He flies to London and Oslo every other week and sometimes I go with him too. We are both on a strict health regime. I go running three to four times a week and I do yoga on the beach in Marbella with this group of super women.
"I'm experimenting in the kitchen cooking fun healthy recipes. I don't ever remember being this fit! A fit healthy body," she laughs, "that is the best fashion statement. We spend most of our days outdoors. The weather, of course, has been wonderful here in Spain. So we are hardly ever in the house during the day. I really see the good that being outdoors all the time has done for Thor."
"He swims perfectly already," she adds. "So we take him out in the water often. This winter we are taking him up to our winter chalet just outside Oslo in a beautiful place called Rjukan. Kas was skiing already at the age of three. So hopefully Thor will be as well."
"This is how I deal with things," she repeats like a mantra to guide her in the darkness.
"We have fun, we enjoy ourselves, and we love life. There are hurdles and there are hardships you have to face in life, but you hope for a great future. Whatever struggles there have been in my life I still live in a very privileged position. Real hardships in life are watching a loved one die, a sickness, or not know where your next meal is coming from. I've no right to harp on about hardships. There are worse things to happen to people. I pray every day."
Asked where her strength comes from, Virginia says strength does not come from winning all the time. Struggles develop your strengths, she adds. "When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. I wake up every morning to a beautiful family."
"I'm very lucky," she continues. "In life, we may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside. I'm a very positive person."
Virginia is not trying to let us imagine that she does not go through days when she feels awful, however.
"There are days when I know I feel down," she says. And on those days Virginia reads, writes and paints a lot. "I have lots of passion inside me. I feel everything. I think this is a good thing."
Despite all the recent bad news, Virginia says there has been joy, too. "We've had great news in the family this year! My gorgeous and talented sister Sonya has had a beautiful baby girl," Virginia says, referring to Sonya Macari's child Evie, with husband Colin Devlin.
"She is as pretty as Sonya was when she was born," Virginia says. "We are all so proud of her. I'm trying to get my little brother Giancarlo to come and live in Spain. I miss him so much. I admire him; he works so hard. And then I have another brother Fiore. He is in the restaurant business with his wife Anna. I love my family."
Virginia says that family means putting your arms around each other and being there. "You know, the right people love you and they will prove it by supporting you," she says. "The wrong people don't care about you - and they will prove it by hurting you. I surround myself with strong, positive, motivated and supportive people."
What keeps you going - apart from Thor?
"Loving life keeps me going and how can you ask me that without talking about my son? Of course he is also what keeps me going. As every mother would say, my child is my everything. I love him with all the bones in my body. "
"From the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep he keeps us laughing," she smiles. "He has so much personality for a two-and-a-half-year-old. He's learning to speak English, Italian, Norwegian and now he is saying words in Spanish. He's fascinated with crocodiles at the moment. So we take him to the crocodile park every other week. I know more about crocodiles these days than I care to know!
"What else keeps me going? I'm always scribbling away writing my memoirs," she claims, "it's so therapeutic. I'm looking forward to 2015 already. We've made so many plans. I won't be withering away. Passion and drive is what moves the vehicle of a fulfilled life. I love success and I love to love. That's what keeps me going."
How have you felt the last few months?
"We have had a great summer," she claims, though few would believe her.
"We are in our beautiful Spanish home. Thor has started in Montessori. We have a gorgeous group of friends. We cook for each other all the time, which is lots of fun, and we have a nice but not a hectic social life. We have been spending many months of the year here in Marbella for the last seven years."
"Kas has been working here with real estate since 2003. Some of my family live here too. So it's an obvious choice for us. We love it here. There is more to Marbella and the Costa Del Sol than Puerto Banus. There are beautiful picturesque villages dotted all around the south of Spain."
She and Kas and Thor often get in the car and explore and learn. "We love the culture. We love all the old towns and museums."
Virginia says that when she wants a little time out - which must have been a lot of late - she "heads down to the Old Town in Malaga. It has the most wonderful windy streets, open-air theatres, cute rickety, little bookshops, tapas bars and colourful markets. Deep in the old part, you come across Phoenician and Roman remains, vestiges of the city's Moorish heritage, opulent Baroque churches that I just stare at in awe . . . all the fantastic contemporary art and architecture. It is just stunning!
"And my favourite place to visit is the Pablo Picasso museum," Virginia explains. "He fascinates me. His pieces take my breath away each time. I go there for hours and I get inspired. It makes me feel sane and it makes me feel enlightened and warm inside. I love art, I love food and history and I love architecture. It feeds my soul."
Do you miss Dublin?
"Of course, there are times when I miss Dublin and my friends. That makes me sad, but Ireland is only two-and-a-half hours away. I hop on a plane every time I feel homesick and I go and see my mum and spend time with my close friends."
What to you miss most about Dublin?
"Friends. Family. Walking through the city centre, and having a glass of Guinness in Grogans on South William Street, my brothers, fish and chips. The rain . . ."
When was the last time you were in Dublin?
"I was back three weeks ago, to see my mom," she says. "Before she went to LA to visit my sister and her baby."
When are you coming home to Ireland for good?
"I'm enjoying life so much here in the Costa, but my real home is always Ireland. I have amazing friends here, too, and I have a great social life. I get invited to some fun launches and parties. I don't go to everything. I prefer to have a quieter life these days. I fly back to Dublin very often."
However, Virginia says she's already booked Thor into an Irish primary school, because she really wants him to have an Irish education. "I think it's one of the best systems in the world."
Her swimwear collection is, she says, "really taking off here in Spain. So that's keeping me busy. My manufacturer is in Portugal. So it's easy for me to visit them. We have expanded the new line with summer dresses and beachwear. I have a wonderful team around me. I have three girls working with me in my studio and I love it. We are working on our catalogue at the moment. So we are looking for a beautiful new Spanish face for the shoot.
"I do my bit for society," she adds. "I'm involved with some lovely charities and I love that".
To wrap up, Virginia wants to say something about the pictures of her today in LIFE magazine.
"I know I'm not perfect, I know I don't have the perfect body," she says. "A woman gets more confident as she gets older. Isn't that strange? But it's so true. Wearing nice lingerie makes me feel very glamorous. I always splurge on it. I think beautiful underwear plays a big part on how a woman carries herself. I think it is what is worn underneath that really inspires a woman to feel beautiful in her clothes, that inner, secret glamour."
And you can't take that away from Virginia Macari.