Former world champion and playboy sprinter Mario Cipollini has been placed under investigation for tax fraud in his hometown of Lucca.

According to reports in the Florence-based La Nazione newspaper and confirmed by Cipollini?s lawyers, the Italian customs police suspect Cipollini may have falsely declared he lived in Monaco between 2000 and 2004 while actually living in his villa in the hills between Lucca and Pisa.

The police have apparently searched Cipollini?s house in the last few days and taken away documents as they look for evidence that Cipollini made false tax declarations.

Cipollini claims he lived in Monaco during the years in question, saying that the presence of his two daughters at schools in the Mediterranean tax haven proved it. However the Italian police want to know what happened to his reported multi-million pound earnings after he won the world road race title in Belgium in 2002.

Like many Italian sport stars, Cipollini was investigated for similar fraud in the late nineties but after a long investigation police did not press charges.

The 39 year-old Tuscan sprinter retired last spring after winning 189 races during his 17-year professional career.