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Exclusive: Why JIT Is Right About Calibri Font In Panama Case

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The Calibri font is the default font Microsoft uses in its Office 365 suite and has been the default in the company’s core products for some time, but now it’s at the center of a major investigation in the Panama case. At issue is whether Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, forged the documents she presented as proof of his innocence in the case.

ValueWalk did some digging into the history of the Calibri font and received exclusive commentary from the design house that created it.

Background on Maryam Nawaz and the Panama case

The Panama Papers leak has caused serious trouble for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and a Joint Investigation Team has been appointed to probe the allegations raised by the papers. The Panama case has raised allegations that the Sharif family concealed assets and even failed to reveal the sources of their income.

As a result, members of the Sharif family were called upon to submit documents to defend themselves and their sources of income. Maryam Nawaz submitted one of the documents, which the JIT sent to London’s Radley Forensic Document Laboratory as part of a rather unusual angle for an investigation. Experts at Radley found the font that was used in her documents to be Calibri.

Therefore, the papers submitted by her were declared to be forged because they were typed in the Calibri font, which they said was not publicly available before Jan. 31, 2007. Because the papers in question were dated 2006, investigators state that they were forged.

How Microsoft’s Calibri font figures into the case

This has thrown Pakistani social media users up in arms, putting the Calibri font suddenly at the center of attention as both sides debate its creation date and whether or not it’s possible that the documents presented by the Nawaz family are real. In fact, the debate has gotten so out of hand that Wikipedia temporarily suspended the “edit” option on the entry for the Calibri font because so many Pakistanis were attempting to change the date the font was released to the public.

Luc(as) de Groot, a Dutch type designer, created the Calibri font, although he is also known for creating the Thesis font superfamily which includes sans-serif, serif and monospaced fonts, and the Consolas font. ValueWalk contacted his firm LucasFonts, and he told us that it would be extremely unlikely that someone would have used it in official documents in 2006. de Groot himself shared some fascinating history of the Calibri font with us:

Lucas started designing Calibri in 2002 and sent the final source files to Microsoft not before March 2004. Apparently, there were first internal beta versions in use since August 2004. Later the first betas of Longhorn (codename for Microsoft Vista Operating system) appeared in public.

We do not know exact release dates, such early Windows betas are intended for programmers and technology freaks to see what works and what doesn’t. As the file size of such operating systems is huge, it would have been a serious effort to get. I believe the first betas of Longhorn did not include the ClearType fonts, but as this was all released by Microsoft, I do not know any exact release dates.

As far as I know, the first public beta versions of Calibri were published in 2006. We don´t know the exact date for this public release date. It is extremely unlikely that somebody would copy fonts from a beta environment to use in official documents.

Office 2007 was the first product officially using Calibri on a large scale. It was made available to volume license customers (resellers) on November 30, 2006, and later to retail on January 30, 2007, the same respective release dates of Windows Vista.

He summed it all up by adding:

“So in theory it would have been possible to make a document with Calibri in 2006. However:

  • It should 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.

So, in my opinion the document in question was produced much later, when Calibri was the default font in MS Word.”

@SheerazRaza also contributed to this story.

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