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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Panama Gate ~ Pak Supreme Court ~ the case of Calibri font

The daughter of Pakistan’s prime minister has become subject of ridicule in her home country after forensic experts cast doubts on documents central to her defence against corruption allegations.  Mariam Nawaz Sharif was  under Supreme court investigation after the 2016 Panama Papers leak tied her to a purchase of high-end London property acquired through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.

Panama   a country in Central America, is bordered by Costa Rica, Colombia, Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half of the country's 4 million people.  Panama broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined, eventually becoming the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977 an agreement was signed for the total transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th century, which culminated on 31 December 1999. 

Away, the Paki PM is all at sea ~  Pakistan's supreme court on Friday found Nawaz Sharif guilty in the Panama Papers case and unanimously disqualified him from holding public office in a unanimous verdict. Shortly after, the PM stepped down from his post "despite reservations", according to the PM house. The Pakistan supreme court also ordered a case be filed against Sharif. The attorney general of Pakistan clarified that prime minister Sharif still holds the office, "and will continue to do so until the president asks him otherwise", said Dawn.  Under Article 190 of the Constitution of Pakistan, it is the president's prerogative to decide whether a sitting prime minister should be asked to step down or not. In its decision, the Pakistan supreme court had specifically asked the president to "ensure a smooth transition for the democratic process."

However, "Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified for life," said Pakistan's attorney general.  This is not the first but the third time Sharif has been unable to complete his term in the chief executive's office, said Dawn newspaper. It is unclear who will be appointed to take over as Pakistan's prime minister. The next general elections are scheduled for 2018.  There are reports that his brother is in the forefront to become the next PM.

The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, some of which dated back to the 1970s, belonged to the Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source. The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private.  "John Doe", the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist  from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists on the investigation.  After SZ verified that the statement did come from the Panama Papers source, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.

In our neighbouring country, the  Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam of presenting fake documents on two 2006 declarations to the probe team using the "Calibri" font. The JIT, which probed  allegations of money laundering against Sharif and his family, said Maryam Nawaz, her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz as well as her husband Captain Mohammad Safdar (retd), had signed false documents to mislead the Supreme Court. The team that probed offshore assets of Sharif family said in its report that Maryam Nawaz claimed herself to be "trustee not the owner" of Avenfield properties in London, which linked her to Minerva Services and Samba Financial, Geo News reported.

There are reports that the investigation boiled to a font !  In metal typesetting, a font is a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. In modern usage, with the advent of digital typography, "font" is frequently synonymous with "typeface".
My favourite font is Book Antiqua’ and Palatino Linotype.  

 According to media reports, the Microsoft typeface Calibri became  a key piece of evidence in the case against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after investigators found it was used in documents dated to 2006. The problem? The font wasn't readily available until a year later, the probe found. The discovery came to light as a Supreme Court-supervised panel examined how Sharif and his family managed to amass such great wealth over the years amid money-laundering charges.

Documents submitted by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister’s daughter, to prove her innocence used the Calibri font but were dated to 2006, leading investigators to believe the text was composed more recently and backdated in an attempted cover-up.  The font revelation generated so much interest that Wikipedia locked its Calibri page until July 18 after scores of users attempted to edit its content. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 150,000 visitors flooded the page, which usually receives 500 visitors per day, according to The Guardian.

The company that created the font said it was developed in 2004 but wasn't dispersed to the general public until Jan. 30, 2007, with the launch of Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. The font’s creator, a Dutch designer named Lucas De Groot, also told Dawn it was "unlikely" Calibri could have been used in any official documents in 2006. Supporters of Sharif argued that  the beta version of font became available in 2004 and therefore could have been used in the documents dated to 2006.

“The whole Calibri thing has spawned all kinds of jokes and social media memes, but at the end of the day it's serious business for the government. It points to the possibility that documents presented by Sharif's daughter were forged.” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia and Pakistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The court-appointed Joint Investigation Team began examining the Pakistan leader and his family in April after the opposition led by former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan argued Sharif bought London property through ill-gotten money. The properties were first mentioned in the leaked Panama Papers released in April 2016. The documents did not name Sharif but linked his three adult children to offshore companies that owned apartments in London. One British Virgin Islands holding firm listed Maryam as the sole shareholder.

Last November, Maryam tweeted images of a disclosure form claiming she wasn't the real owner of the apartments and she is only a "trustee.” But investigators, in a report submitted to the country's supreme court earlier this week, declared those documents "falsified" because of the Calibri font's use. Sharif and his family deny any wrongdoing and say the properties were purchased with legal money earned through the family’s expansive business that spans several countries.

In the meantime, #Fontgate, as social media users are calling it, has generated huge interest and memes online.  “Bill Gates personally thanking Nawaz Sharif for inventing Calibri font,” wrote a twitter user with picture of Microsoft founder with Pakistani Prime Minister.  Big Empires have fallen due to varied reasons, but none thus far to a font, as did Nawaz Shariff !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st Aug 2017.


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