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At the center of a corruption case involving the Pakistani Prime Minister is a font

The Microsoft font Calibri could be an unlikely smoking gun in a corruption scandal which has mired Pakistan's ruling family and captivated the country.

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Euan McKirdy
Sophia Saifi (CNN)

The Microsoft font Calibri could be an unlikely smoking gun in a corruption scandal which has mired Pakistan's ruling family and captivated the country.

The scandal centers around allegations that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family owns properties in London through offshore companies. And while owning property in itself is not illegal, opposition parties have questioned if the money to buy them came from public funds.

Last November, the Prime Minister's daughter, Maryam, tweeted images of a disclosure form claiming she wasn't the real owner of the apartments.

She said the documents proved she was a "trustee and not the owner" of the properties.

Investigators looking into the scandal noticed an odd thing.

The document is dated 2006. But it was typed using Calibri.

And, as the investigators noted in their report, that font was not commercially available until the following year.

The political dynasty

When the Joint Investigation Team was set up in April, Prime Minister Sharif pledged that if anything from the investigation proved corruption, he would step down.

Sharif's term as Prime Minister ends next year and he can't run again because of term limits. His daughter, Maryam, is widely regarded as his potential successor.

After the investigation team sent its report to the Supreme Court, Maryam Sharif rejected it and she has denied any wrongdoing. Sharif's son, Hussain, is also under investigation. He too has said all the business affairs were legal.

Government lawyers are expected to formally challenge the findings.

The scandal

The properties are at the center of a scandal that was first ignited with the release of the Panama Papers in April 2016. That's the huge cache of leaked documents, dating back four decades, that are allegedly connected to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca that revealed the financial dealings of some of the world's most well-known people.

While Sharif himself was not named, his three adult children were linked in the Papers to offshore companies that owned properties in London. One British Virgin Islands holding firm listed Maryam as the sole shareholder.

Calls for an investigation, led by former cricketer-turned-opposition politician Imran Khan, began when three of Sharif's children, his sons Hussain and Hasan, and daughter Maryam, were named in the 2016 document dump. Hasan too has denied wrongdoing.

Related: Pakistani PM must appear before new investigative team, court rules

The reaction

Pakistani social media users greeted the news of Maryam Sharif's alleged forgery with a mixture of humor and shock, as the hashtag "fontgate" trended on Twitter.

Pakistani journalists also noted that a Wikipedia page focusing on the font had been edited dozens of times over two days -- an unusually high number.

As a result, the article is currently protected from editing until July 18.

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