A BOURNEMOUTH barber who returned to the UK from Brazil with £300,000 worth of cocaine hidden in suitcases claimed he turned to drug smuggling after work dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jhonatan Martins Kirchhoff, aged 22 and of Commercial Road, Bournemouth, told National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators he had turned to the criminal activity to earn extra cash and pay off his own drug debts.

The dual German/Brazilian national was stopped by Border Force officials on July 1 after he landed at Heathrow Airport from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

A search of one of his suitcases revealed a sticky substance that tested positive for cocaine. When officers searched a second suitcase they found a concealment at the top and bottom of the case where further amounts of cocaine had been stashed.

He initially denied knowledge of the drugs and claimed he’d bought the luggage at Primark.

But he later changed his story and confessed to the NCA that he’d been given the suitcases in Brazil to bring back to Bournemouth, and expected to be paid around $7,000 per case.

Once cut and sold on the streets the 3.86kg of cocaine contained within them would have been worth in excess of £300,000.

Kirchhoff appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on August 27  where he faced charges for the importation of controlled drugs. He was sentenced to five years and four months in prison after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

Bournemouth Echo: Jhonatan Martins KirchhoffJhonatan Martins Kirchhoff

Andy Noyes, NCA Senior Investigating Officer said: “Organised crime networks are more than happy to use the likes of Kirchhoff as a mule to smuggle illegal drugs into the UK. No doubt his connections to Brazil made him an ideal candidate for the job.

“Despite his efforts, through working in partnership with Border Force we’ve ensured a significant amount of class A drugs have been taken out of circulation and that the group he was working for are disrupted.

“This conviction should also act as a warning to those who think they can make easy money out of drug trafficking. In doing so you are risking your future and a significant jail term.”

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: “This was fantastic work by Border Force officers, who kept these drugs off the UK’s streets and helped bring a smuggler to justice.

“Illegal drugs fuel crime, violence and exploitation which is why our work with partners like the NCA to prevent them reaching our communities is so vital.”