To skeptics it sounded all too much like business as usual— the cash-strapped Greek government which was treading precariously just to pay public servants’ salaries announced it was hiring one of the most high profile (read: expensive) law firms in the world. That legal team is represented by none other than Amal Clooney, American actor George Clooney’s glamorous new bride and add to that— hired under the cloak of secrecy with no public tender.
People were too star-struck to make a big fuss about it at the time. Amid the chaos of the Greek financial crisis and looming elections, political uncertainty and instability— the news that Clooney was arriving in Athens to be briefed on the Parthenon Marbles case was too good to spoil with political infighting. Hardly anybody said a word— or asked how this happened— or how the Greek government would pay for it.
Several months later, a London newspaper is reporting that a Greek shipping magnate from the UK is flipping the entire bill— through an arrangement that was made soon after Clooney and her law partner Geoffrey Robertson visited Athens in October.
A former official in Greece’s culture ministry told London Times that an unnamed Greek shipping tycoon who operates in London wanted to make a “grand gesture of patriotism” by paying the legal fees associated with the Parthenon Marbles case. The official said the fees had been deemed “too extravagant” by the Greek government, which is in the midst of a financial crisis.
The official quoted by the newspaper worked for Konstantinos Tasoulas, the former Greek culture minister who was responsible for handling Greece’s claims to the sculptures.
“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.