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Meteorite stunt backfires on Swedish telecoms firm

LONDON - A publicity campaign involving a hoax meteorite in Latvia has backfired spectacularly with the Swedish telecoms company behind the stunt losing a government contract.

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Tele2 has admitted that it staged a meteorite crash in the Latvian countryside, resulting in a 10-metre wide crater. Emergency services attended the scene followed by scientists, who quickly identified that the meteorite was a hoax.

The stunt included the recording of video footage of the aftermath of the meteor strike, which appeared on YouTube:

Although Tele2 has said that the stunt was part of a wider marketing campaign that will soon be revealed, it may end up being in vain with the Latvian government saying it is going to cancel contracts with the company.

Linda Murniece, minister of the interior, told reports that the ministry "doesn't want to do business with a firm that promotes itself at our expense".

Latvia has been particularly hard hit by the global economic downturn, with a very high rate of unemployment and the biggest fall in GDP in the European Union. Earlier in the year protests against the government turned into a riot.

Tele2 said that it had undertaken the hoax to "to draw attention away from Latvia's economic crisis and toward something else more interesting", Sky News reports.

The company has said it will reimburse the government over any expenses incurred by the stunt.

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