NEW DELHI - Indian police on Sunday arrested a cab driver suspected of raping a female passenger who hailed a ride with him via Uber, the US online taxi service that has launched an aggressive international expansion.
"The prime accused in the case has been arrested," Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner with the Delhi police, told Reuters. The suspect was arrested in his home town in Uttar Pradesh where his car was earlier found abandoned. He will be brought before a court in New Delhi on Monday.
The suspect allegedly raped a 25-year-old woman in the Indian capital before threatening to kill her if she alerted police, the company and local reports said Sunday.
The woman, an executive for a finance company, had dozed off in the taxi as she was returning home from dinner with friends on Friday night, media reported.
The woman has told police she woke to find the taxi parked in a secluded place where the driver assaulted and raped her, before dumping her near her home in north New Delhi.
New Delhi special commissioner Deepak Mishra criticised Uber over the attack, saying early investigations showed GPS had not been installed in the taxi and mandatory police background checks were not conducted on the driver. "Our initial investigations have revealed the shortcomings of the private cab company which didn't have GPS installed in its cabs and the staff wasn't verified," he said.
US-based Uber, which emphasises safety and high-end technology, is making inroads in the Indian market including by appealing to young urban professionals.
The attack is a blow to Uber's reputation in India, where women are extremely safety-conscious after dark following a string of rapes that sparked global shock and anger.
The woman had clicked a photograph of the car's number plate and then reported the crime to police, an officer told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The company said it was working with police to solve the "terrible crime", while the driver's licence has been suspended.
"Our thoughts are with the victim of this terrible crime and we are working with the police as they investigate," Uber spokeswoman Evelyn Tay said in a statement. "Safety is Uber's highest priority and in India we work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option."
The fatal gang-rape of a student on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 unleashed outrage about the high number of attacks of women in India and inadequate efforts to keep them safe.
Uber, founded in 2009 and now present in more than 200 cities and in 45 countries, has faced privacy concerns.
The company was caught in a storm in the US last month over allegations riders were being spied on using an internal "God view" tool.
The company's rapid expansion has also caused tensions with traditional taxi drivers, especially in Europe.