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The Kleptocrats: Unveiling Corruption in Malaysia's Halls of Power

"The Kleptocrats" unveils the shocking scale of political corruption in Malaysia, tracing a money trail that leads back to the government's top echelons.

Keywords: Billion Dollar Whale, Malaysia, Corruption, Money Laundering, Wealth Fund, Politics, Investigative Journalism, Najib Razak, Jho Low, Harrow College.


"The Kleptocrats," directed by Sam Hobkinson and Havana Marking, is a gripping documentary released in 2018. This film delves into the scandalous looting of Malaysia's wealth fund, amounting to a whopping US$3.5 billion. In an era where accountability and transparency are paramount, "The Kleptocrats" brings to light the grim reality of political corruption and the dire implications it has on a country's economy and its citizens.


"The Kleptocrats" meticulously traces the path of the stolen billions from Malaysia's wealth fund, mapping the dirty money's trail through real estate deals and Hollywood movie financing. The investigation ultimately leads back to the top echelons of the Malaysian government, exposing the depth of corruption within its ranks.

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The documentary adopts an investigative approach, meticulously piecing together the puzzle of the stolen funds. The depth of research and subject exploration is commendable, making the complex world of money laundering understandable for viewers. The presentation style is engaging, with a narrative that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat.

Historical and Factual Context:

Understanding the historical context of Malaysia's political system and the challenges it has faced in curbing corruption can further enhance the viewer's appreciation of the documentary. This can be explored in depth via resources such as the Transparency International's reports on Malaysia.

Key themes in the film:

  • The pervasive threat of corruption within political systems.
  • The power of investigative journalism in holding the powerful accountable.
  • The complex and shadowy world of international money laundering.

Film Comparisons:

In comparison to other documentaries on iWonder, The Kleptocrats offers a more focused exploration of a single, massive corruption scandal, providing a detailed investigation into how such large scale money laundering operations are conducted.

Noteworthy Moments:

One particularly enlightening moment in the documentary is when the investigative reporters trace the money trail back to the financing of the Hollywood blockbuster, "The Wolf of Wall Street," which ironically deals with themes of corruption and greed.


"The Kleptocrats" has been well-received, with an IMDB rating of 7.1. Critics have lauded its in-depth research and gripping narrative.


"The Kleptocrats" is a must-watch for anyone interested in understanding the intricacies of political corruption and the power of investigative journalism. It offers a chilling reminder of the scale of corruption possible within a country's government and the devastating impact it can have.

Watch The Kleptocrats - Streaming Online | iwonder (Free Trial)
A Malaysian wealth fund is looted of US$3.5 billion. With little to go on, dogged investigative reporters from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Hollywood Reporter retrace the dirty money, via real estate deals and movie financing including “The Wolf of Wall Street”, back to the top echelo…

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IMDB: 7.1 | Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Awards: 1 nomination: Cleveland International Film Festival

Najib Razak: Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, involved in the scandal.
Jho Low: Businessman involved in the scandal, the Billion Dollar Whale
Clare Rewcastle Brown: Investigative journalist who brought the scandal to light.


Links for further exploration

  1. Transparency International's reports on Malaysia:

Key Questions Raised by the Film:

How was such a large scale corruption scandal allowed to occur in Malaysia?

What measures can be taken to prevent similar corruption scandals in the future?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form:

"The Billion Dollar Whale" - if it was a famous book, both deal with financial corruption and its impacts.

"Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits - if it was a famous song, as it reflects the theme of illicitly acquired wealth.

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch - if it was a famous piece of art, as it symbolizes the public shock at the corruption scandal.

Leonardo DiCaprio - if it was a famous celebrity, as his movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" was ironically funded by the laundered money.

Grey - if it was a colour, as it symbolizes the murky world of corruption and money laundering.

Jazz - if it was a music style, as it is intricate, complex, and full of unexpected twists, much like the investigation into the scandal.