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Dundee rape survivor: ‘Why was my attacker given taxi badge despite stalking conviction?’

A survivor of rapist Saifal Zaveri has called for change after it emerged her taxi driver attacker had a 2017 conviction for stalking.

Former taxi driver Saifal Zaveri was jailed for sex attacks on two teenage passengers.
Former taxi driver Saifal Zaveri was jailed for sex attacks on two teenage passengers.

A student raped by a “predatory” Dundee taxi driver has called for an urgent tightening of licensing rules after it emerged he was allowed to keep his taxi badge, despite a conviction for stalking a teenage girl.

The woman was just 17 when licensed cabbie Saifal Zaveri picked her up as a fare after a night out with friends in 2021.

Instead of taking her straight home, the twisted father-of-three turned his taxi around and parked in a layby, where he sexually assaulted and raped her.

Last week, 42-year-old Zaveri was jailed for eight years for the attack, as well as a sexual assault on another teenage passenger in 2020.

It was only after he was caged at the High Court in Glasgow that victims learned of his 2017 conviction for stalking a young woman in Dundee.

Lasting impact

Zaveri’s older victim, now 19, was forced in court to recall her terror when the taxi driver took an unexpected detour, away from her destination.

“I was scared,” she told his trial at Edinburgh High Court.

Saifal Zaveri at his old newsagents shop in 2018.

She told prosecutors she did not want any of it to happen.

The woman, who maintained her right to anonymity when speaking to The Courier, said her ordeal has had a lasting impact.

“It has been awful.

“I can hardly leave the house. I can’t get into taxis.

“My partner works all day, so he isn’t there to drive me around.”

She said there was a sense of genuine closure when Zaveri was handed an 11-year extended sentence – eight years of it to be served in prison.

The High Court in Glasgow
The High Court in Glasgow, where Zaveri was jailed.

“I was actually shocked.

“I was expecting him to get jailed but I was thinking it would be for something like eight months – I didn’t expect him to get eight years.”

At sentencing, Lord Fairley praised the bravery of Zaveri’s victims for speaking out and said he was “not surprised” the jury had returned a guilty verdict.

He went on to reveal Zaveri’s earlier conviction.

“In common with these latest crimes, that offence was committed against a young woman who was a teenager, when you were 36 years old,” the judge said.

‘No idea’ about previous conviction

The student told us: “I had no idea about this conviction until I read it in the court report.

“I can’t understand why he was registered as a taxi driver after this offence, giving him another opportunity to assault young teenagers.

“Surely this was a red flag.”

She said: “Our council is meant to make sure people like this aren’t allowed to be taxi drivers, especially as many young people use them to get home on a regular basis.”

A rape survivor of Saifal Zaveri is calling for a review of the way taxi licences are approved. Image: Shutterstock.

The teenager said if Zaveri’s background had been thoroughly checked and assessed “I would never have been raped and abused.

“Other girls would have never been abused. This has ruined our lives.

“This could have been massively prevented.”

She has pointed the finger at Dundee City Council – which approves taxi and private hire licences – and Tele Taxis, the firm through which she booked Zaveri’s cab on the night she was attacked.

“People use these services all the time,” she said.

“That’s why I’m so shocked this has been allowed to happen.

“There really needs to be a review of the way people are assessed for taxi licences.”

Licence decision discussions are ‘private’

Zaveri began work as a taxi driver after the closure of his newsagents businesses in Reform Street in early 2018.

He became a director and driver for Abertay Cabs Ltd in April that year.

He resigned in April 2021, nearly a year after his first penetrative assault on his younger victim.

Dundee House sign
Licensing decisions remain private, Dundee City Council said. Image: DC Thomson

We asked Dundee City Council to explain why Zaveri was allowed a licence, despite his conviction.

We also asked if the authority had been notified about his criminal past.

A spokesman replied: “As part of its general procedures in granting taxi driver’s licences, the licensing committee takes into account all information available from the applicant and, if applicable, Police Scotland before making any decision.

“As these discussions are held in private, the council is not in a position to provide any details publicly about any of these matters.”

Tele Taxis did not respond to our questions.

Police Scotland referred our enquiries to the local authority.

Scottish Government guidance

The Scottish Government states the weight attached to convictions when considering taxi applicants is determined by individual councils.

The official guidance says: “In considering an individual’s criminal record, local licensing authorities will want to consider each case on its own merits but they will doubtless take a particularly cautious view of any offences involving violence and especially sexual in nature.”

It is incumbent on the applicant to divulge any convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

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