Cliff Ombeta has chiselled a name for himself in Kenya’s legal turf by treading where very few would dare and defending those perceived as the black sheep in society. This fascination with criminal cases has earned him the nickname ‘Satan’s elder brother’.
His philosophy is that a person only becomes a criminal the moment they have been convicted. Cliff has represented high-profile individuals such as Babu Owino, Former Migori Governor Okoth Obado, Jowie Irungu, Jackie Maribe, and the Akasha brothers. Most recently, he represented Ezekiel Odero, a controversial pastor linked to cultic practices.
Aside from legal matters, Ombeta loves the finer things in life. He says he inherited a sense of style from his father, a former customs commissioner at KRA. For instance, in an interview with K24, he disclosed he was wearing a Pal Zileri suit worth Ksh 130,000, which he said was one of his cheapest outfits.
He also disclosed owning a 20,000-dollar watch, and that his shoes belong to the ‘Church’s footwear’ brand and cost Ksh 110,000. To crown it all, he was wearing a Ksh 50,000 belt.
“My current outfit, from head to toe, costs about Ksh 1.6 million. Why should I purchase cheap things while I can afford higher quality products?”
Outside the courtroom, Ombeta is a fitness freak. A gym enthusiast, he says working out helps him relax and figure out complex legal matters.
When asked if he suspects that some of his clients are guilty of crimes accused of, he says it is not his duty to judge clients. His duty is to listen to them, take instructions, and challenge the evidence brought against them.
He mentions the case of the Akasha family as the most dangerous he has handled throughout his 27 years of legal practice. This is because he was already friends with them even before they were charged with the crime. He considers it his most dangerous case, citing threats and harassment from Americans.
“I was leading a team of lawyers for the case. The Americans bugged our rooms and followed us everywhere. They wanted to know who was paying us. When the Akasha brothers were extradited to America, I was called to testify on the case. I knew that if I went, I would be killed. So, I refused”
Though divorced, the father of two harbours no regrets about his line of profession. He says his children know and accept his work, and that his daughter wants to be a lawyer.
He says he charges legal fees depending on the client, and that high-profile clients pay him more. However, he is not overly materialistic, as he sometimes offers pro bono services depending on how clients approach him.
However, there are cases Ombeta swears he will not touch. These include cases of indecent assault and rape. He refers such cases to other lawyers, saying he is sensitive towards them.
Asked which judge challenges him the most, Ombeta mentioned Justice Jessie Lesiit, saying one can’t defend a case against her if they are ill-prepared.
All in all, Ombeta, who prides himself in having won 90% of all the cases he has taken on, owes his success to experience, boldness, bravery, and luck.