A North Shore Taxi driver has been charged for allegedly sexually assaulting a passenger inside a cab, West Vancouver Police confirmed Friday.
Sixty-year-old Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford, who is also the president of the Abbotsford Hindu Temple, is facing one charge of sexual assault in connection to the incident, which allegedly happened in the early morning of Jan. 2.
According to police, the victim alleges they were inside the taxi waiting for a friend in the 100-block of Whonoak Road in West Vancouver shortly before 1 a.m., when Sharma grabbed the victim’s genital area.
It’s then alleged Sharma took the victim’s hand and “forcibly placed it in contact with the suspect’s genital area, which had been exposed through an open zipper.”
The victim, who is not being identified, and her friend then safely made it to their destination, and both reported the incident to police the same day.
Sharma was arrested Jan. 17 after police conducted an investigation. He was then forced to surrender his West Vancouver taxi permit.
After charges were approved, Sharma made his first appearance in court on Wednesday. He’s due to appear again March 20.
In an interview with Global News, the victim, who was visibly shaking, said she couldn’t talk about the investigation, but had a message for women travelling around the city.
“Be careful, watch yourself, and always have someone with you.”
Ashok Sharma (no relation), secretary and former vice-president of the Fraser Valley Hindu Cultural Society, told Global News the society first heard about the allegations Thursday, and planned to meet Friday to discuss them.
He also said Deepak plans to resign as president of the Abbotsford Hindu Temple — a position he has held for one-and-a-half years after serving a separate two-year term “five to six years ago” — but that he has not yet officially handed in his resignation.
Ashok said the society believes the allegation is “a fabrication.”
“We’ve known him for 18 years and have never heard anything like this before,” he said.
In 2013, a former priest of the Abbotsford Hindu Temple, Karam Vir, was found guilty of sexually interfering with two young women in his congregation.
—With files from Rumina Daya