The availability of a Microsoft font type is the evidence that investigators believe prove that the daughter of Pakistan's prime minister was the owner and not trustee of several family properties that are at the heart of the Panamagate.

Maryam Nawaz, (C) the daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves while she arrives to talk with media following appearing before a Joint Investigation Team, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
Maryam Nawaz, (C) the daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves while she arrives to talk with media following appearing before a Joint Investigation Team, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

A Microsoft font type and its release date has taken centre stage in a money laundering scandal that has engulfed the country's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in Pakistan claims that Sharif's sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, and daughter, Maryam Nawaz, as well as her husband Captain (retired) Mohammad Safdar have been living beyond their known means of income.

The JIT report submitted in the country's apex court adds that the Sharif family members also failed to provide sufficient evidence that proves their claims related to the money trail of the assets they own.

They are accused of signing documents at a later time than they had claimed in a bid to mislead the Supreme Court.

The evidence of what appears to be their undoing is their use of the Calibri-type font that was not commercially available at the time they claimed to have signed the documents.

Microsoft's Calibri font was used to type certified papers naming Sharif's daughter Maryam as a trustee, not the owner, for several of the family's high-end London properties.

The plush apartments are at the heart of the case against the Sharif family, with authorities and the opposition questioning the legitimacy of funds used to buy them via offshore companies.

But the papers were dated February 2006, a year before the font in which they are typed commercially released, according to its creator.

The same conclusion was drawn by the JIT tasked by Pakistan's Supreme Court with examining the corruption claims, which had London's Radley Forensic Document Laboratory assess the documents.

Based on that assessment, the JIT, that includes members of the country's civilian and military investigative agencies, rejected the papers as "falsified" in a report issued earlier this week.

In addition to pointing out discrepancies in the dates mentioned in the submitted documents, the JIT report said that the type of font used in the declarations submitted by the prime minister's daughter was not commercially available at the time of the dates mentioned on the documents.

The conclusion, dubbed #Fontgate, set Pakistani social media alight with jokes and memes and was widely repeated in the mainstream press, adding fuel to opposition calls for the prime minister to step down.

More Googled than porn

"Today #calibri was searched more than porn in Pakistan", wrote one Twitter user, Sherry.

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi said the PM should now write his resignation "in #Calibri font".

Supporters of Sharif's ruling PML-N party argued that Calibri has been publicly available since 2004. Microsoft did not immediately respond to AFP's requests for comment.

But the font's creator, a Dutch designer named Lucas De Groot, said in a statement that it was "unlikely" Calibri had been used in any official documents in 2006.

"In my opinion the document in question was produced much later," he said.

De Groot said he began designing Calibri in 2002 and sent the finalised version to Microsoft in 2004. After that, he said, it was used in beta versions that would have required "serious effort" to obtain.

The first Microsoft product to use Calibri on a large scale was Office 2007, he said, which was available to re-sellers by November 20, 2006 and for retail by January 30, 2007.

"So in theory it would have been possible to make a document with Calibri in 2006," he said.

"However, it would have been taken from a beta operating system, from the hands of computer nerds. Why would anyone use a completely unknown font for an official document in 2006?

"If the person using Calibri was such a font lover that he or she HAD to use the new Calibri, then he or she should be able to prove that other documents were printed with Calibri in 2006, and these prints should be in the hands of other people as well."

Maryam Nawaz, herself a regular Twitter user, has not yet commented publicly on the Calibri claim, though she vowed the JIT report itself would be "decimated" in court.

Corruption case engulfed the family last year

The corruption controversy which has engulfed her family erupted last year with the publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealing the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.

Along with Maryam, two more of Sharif's four children, his sons Hasan and Hussein were also implicated in the papers.

Sharif's PML-N party insists the wealth used to purchase the properties was acquired legally, through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

But the JIT report, commissioned by the Supreme Court in April, said there was a "significant disparity" between the Sharifs' income and lifestyle.

The Sharif family has consistently denied the allegations against it and rejected the JIT report, with allies denouncing it as "trash."

The court is considering its next steps and will begin deciding what action to take next week.

Source: AFP