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July 24, 2017

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A bad font choice is bringing down a political dynasty in Pakistan

An investigation into the family of Pakistan's prime minister — one that some say could bring down the country's government — has made headlines for many reasons, not least among them a controversy over an unlikely piece of evidence: a font.

Calibri, to be precise.

In a move that seems like it's been plucked from the pages of a detective novel, the team probing allegations of money laundering against the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has concluded that certain documents were created "post-facto" in an attempt to trick investigators.

The case stems from documents in the Panama Papers leak that suggest Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of the prime minister, was the owner of two offshore companies that owned properties in London — possibly paid for with taxpayer money.

Sharif, who is widely seen as the successor to her father, whose final term ends next year, denied the claims, and posted to Twitter documents that she claimed proved she was merely a trustee of the properties rather than the owner.

The only problem: the document's date is from 2006, but the font of the text used in the document — Calibri — wasn't released until 2007.

Investigators quoted forensic handwriting and document examiner Robert W. Radley, who said he had "identified the type font used to produce both certified declarations as 'Calibri.' However, (the font) was not commercially available before Jan 31, 2007 and as such, neither of the (documents) is correctly dated and (appear) to have been created at some later point in time."

Sharif and her legal team responded by saying that although Calibri was not commercially released until 2007, it was created, copyrighted and made available to a limited degree in previous years.

Dawn reached out to Lucas de Groot, the designer credited with creating Calibri, to weigh in on whether the font was available in February 2006 (when the document was signed) or earlier, as claimed by Sharif's supporters, or 2007, as claimed by pretty much the rest of the internet.

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