5:40pm UK, Tuesday October 27, 2009
A mobile phone company has admitted being behind an elaborate meteorite hoax in Latvia.
And the firm has promised to reimburse the country for all costs incurred by emergency and military workers involved in the incident.
The stunt was co-ordinated with a PR firm “to draw attention away from Latvia’s economic crisis and toward something else more interesting”, said Vita Sirica, of the Latvian branch of Swedish-owned Tele2.
She said nine people dug the hole and burned chemicals at the bottom to create the illusion of a meteorite crash.
Their video of a smoking hole later appeared on news sites and the incident made headlines around the world, as rescue authorities said a fiery object had created a large crater in a meadow near the Estonian border.
Experts examine the crater which had actually been dug by hand
Scientists rushed to investigate the 27ft (9m) wide and 9ft (3m) deep hole, while military units cordoned off the area and tested for radioactivity.
But after closer analysis, experts said the hole was too tidy and had to have been made by humans.
At the phone company’s HQ in Stockholm, Tele2’s Pernilla Oldmark said the hoax was “part of a marketing campaign that will start shortly”, but would not elaborate.
But as a result of the hoax, Latvia is cancelling its contracts with the company.
Interior Minister Linda Murniece said: “We don’t want to do business with a firm that promotes itself at our expense.