Reuters International

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's environment minister resigned on Friday after a prosecutor filed charges against him for allegedly channelling illegal payments to private hospitals while he was health minister in the previous government.

He was among 64 people, including 44 doctors, who were charged on Wednesday in connection with a scandal in which some took bribes to refer patients - some of them already dead - to two private clinics. Doctors received up to 500 euros ($560) for the referrals.

"I ask you to release me from my duty as a minister until the moment I am declared innocent," Ferid Agani wrote in a letter to the prime minister, Isa Mustafa.

Agani, who is accused of signing documents which resulted in 4.5 million euros (3.48 million pound) being paid to the clinics, said he would cooperate fully with authorities.

Kosovo's crumbling health system ranks among the worst in Europe, driving those who can afford it to seek treatment abroad. Bribery is rife in one of the poorest countries in Europe.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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