Amal Clooney (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

Greece is broke, correct? That’s why it needed bailing out by the rest of Europe.

But then, the cash-strapped Greek government hires the high-profile and expensive London law firm that employs Amal Clooney, American actor George Clooney’s glamorous new bride, to represent it in its never-ending quest to get the Elgin Marbles back from the British Museum. With no public tender.

What’s missing from this picture? A Greek shipping magnate, of course.

A former official in Greece’s culture ministry said Monday that an unnamed Greek shipping tycoon who operates in both Athens and London wanted to make a “grand gesture of patriotism” by paying the London-based lawyers’ legal fees, according to the London Times newspaper. The official said the fees had been deemed “too extravagant” by the Greek government, which is in the midst of a financial crisis, the paper reported Tuesday.

The official quoted by the newspaper worked for Konstantinos Tasoulas, a former Greek culture minister who was responsible for handling Greece’s claims to the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. The Elgin Marbles sculptures are owned by the British Museum.

He refused to say whether the shipping tycoon first approached the Greek government, or the other way around, but he talked of the timing of the hiring of Amal Clooney and the rest of the team from the Doughty Street chambers in central London.

“The arrangement came immediately after Mrs. Clooney and her boss Geoffrey Robertson visited Athens three months ago,” the paper quoted him as saying. He said the offer of outside aid allowed the Greek government to sidestep a public tender for the work, which he said would have been “controversial for both sides.” Tasoulas was culture minister at the time of Clooney’s high-profile visit.

“The ship owners’ involvement proved pivotal,” the official said. “Ever since, billing fees have been going straight to him.”

Clooney and the other members of her legal team visited Athens last October at the invitation of the Greek government. The visit came quickly on the heels of the lawyer’s glamorous and well-publicized Venice wedding to actor George Clooney, which quickly lent the case some added notoriety.

Asked about this financial aid from a Greek shipping tycoon, Robertson, Clooney’s superior, said their fees would be paid by “a group of philanthropists at no expense to the Greek people,” the paper reported.

The official said the London lawyers were due to present an estimated 300-page report to the Greek government in the coming weeks.

“This opinion will be delivered after March 30, which is the deadline for the United Kingdom to reply to the UNESCO request for it to enter into mediation over the future of the Parthenon sculptures,” Robertson was quoted by the newspaper as saying, referring to the U.N.’s culture agency.

The statues were removed from Athens and brought to Britain in the 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the then-Ottoman Empire. The British Museum argues that that was done with the full permission of the relevant authorities at the time.

Athens has been trying for years to get the Greek sculptures back, however.

“Unless the government wants to drop the restitution case altogether, it would be foolish to scrap this arrangement (between the shipping magnate and Mrs. Clooney’s legal team), “ the official was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “It’s free publicity and legal advice.”