It must have seemed a good idea at the time, but Swedish cellco Tele2 faces a hefty bill after creating a fake meteorite landing on a Latvian farm.
When locals reported lights in the sky on Sunday evening, the Latvian government sent special forces and scientific experts to the scene.
Security forces cordoned off the area to conduct radiation tests around the smoldering 10-meter hole in the ground, which they later discovered had been dug with shovels.
The event became a global media sensation, then a mystery and now a hoax after Tele2’s Latvian subsidiary ‘fessed up.
“The so-called meteorite was our initiative,” said marketing manager Yanis Spongis. “We wanted Latvian society to believe in opportunity to be the focus of the world’s attention, with the help of an interesting and unique news story.”
The company has promised to reimburse the recession-hit Baltic nation for the cost of sending military to the scene, but that’s not the end of it.
A furious Latvian government said it would cut all Tele2 contracts in protest, FT.com reported.
“The Interior Ministry doesn’t want to do business with a firm that promotes itself at our expense,” said interior minister Linda Murniece.
She accused the company of “cynical mockery”, while police were considering criminal charges against the firm.
A Tele2 spokesperson said the stunt had been intended to kick off a forthcoming marketing campaign.