Gregory David Roberts

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For other people with similar names, see Greg Roberts (disambiguation).
Gregory David Roberts
Born Gregory John Peter Smith
June 1952
Melbourne, Australia
Occupation Novelist, charity organiser and screenplay writer
Nationality Australian
Period 2003–present

Gregory David Roberts (born Gregory John Peter Smith; June 1952[1]) is an Australian author best known for his novel Shantaram. He is a former heroin addict and convicted bank robber who escaped from Pentridge Prison in 1980 and fled to India, where he lived for ten years.


Roberts reportedly became addicted to heroin after his marriage ended, and he lost custody of his young daughter. In his efforts to finance his drug habit, Roberts became known as the "Building Society Bandit"[2] and the "Gentleman Bandit", because he had chosen to rob only institutions with adequate insurance, he would wear a three-piece suit, and he always said "please" and "thank you" to the people he robbed.[3]

Roberts believed at the time that in this way he was lessening the brutality of his acts, but later in his life he admitted that people only gave him money because he had made them afraid.[4] He escaped from Pentridge Prison in 1980.[1][5]

In 1990, Roberts was captured in Frankfurt after being caught smuggling heroin into the country. He was extradited to Australia and served a further six years in prison, two of which were spent in solitary confinement. According to Roberts, he escaped prison again during that time, but relented and smuggled himself back into jail. His intention was to serve the rest of his sentence to give himself the chance to be reunited with his family. During his second stay in Australian prison, he began writing Shantaram. The manuscript was destroyed by prison wardens, twice, while Roberts was writing it.[6]

Writing career[edit]

After leaving prison, Roberts was able to finally finish and publish his novel, Shantaram. The book's name comes from the name his best friend's mother gave him, which means "Man of Peace", or "Man of God's Peace". There is debate as to how much of Shantaram is based on true events or is a conflation of real life and fantasy.[7]

Roberts lived in Melbourne, Germany, and France and finally returned to Mumbai (Bombay), where he set up charitable foundations to assist the city's poor with health care coverage. He was finally reunited with his daughter. He got engaged to Francoise Sturdza, who is the president of the Heart for India Foundation. Roberts also wrote the original screenplay for the movie adaptation of Shantaram.[7]

In 2009, Roberts was named a Zeitz Foundation Ambassador for Community. Ambassadors help raise awareness and shape activities in their areas. In 2011, Roberts stepped aside as an Ambassador due to the pressure of other commitments but continues to assist the Zeitz Foundation as a Friend.[8]

The follow-up novel The Mountain Shadow is due for publication in October 2015 by Grove Atlantic.[9][needs update]


  1. ^ a b Murdoch, Lindsey (23 July 1980). Pentridge convicts jump free, The Age
  2. ^ (1 June 1978). Societies' bandit: 23 years, The Age; accessed 7 April 2015.
  3. ^ Roberts, Gregory David, (2003) Shantaram Carlton North, Vic. Scribe Publications; ISBN 1-920769-00-5.
  4. ^ Gearin, Mary (8 November 2003). "Building Society Bandit hits big time". 7:30 Report. ABC1. Retrieved 21 September 2008. 
  5. ^ Conroy, Paul (15 December 1989). Five New Names Are Posted On State's 10 Most Wanted List, The Age; accessed 6 April 2015.
  6. ^ Husain, Mishal (5 January 2004). "Greg Roberts' amazing story". BBC News Online. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Shantaram,; accessed 6 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Zeitz Foundation Newsletter Issue 2 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Biedenharn, Isabella (11 March 2015). "Shantaram sequel coming in October from Gregory David Roberts". Entertainment Weekly. 


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