Zurich Professional has provided some professional indemnity (PI) cover for the Italian arm of Grant Thornton, the accountant involved in the £7bn Parmalat scandal, according to sources.

One PI broker said: "Zurich has some exposure, though not at a primary level."

A Zurich Professional spokeswoman declined to comment on the insurer's involvement, saying: "It is not our policy to discuss whether or not we insure specific individuals or companies."

Predictions of a fall in professional indemnity (PI) rates have been revised following the involvement of Grant Thornton and Deloitte & Touche in the scandal.

Following the recent influx of PI capacity into the market, brokers had predicted that rates would fall by around 10%-20% over the next two years.

But underwriters say rates could be maintained as a result of the accountants' role in Parmalat.

Markel director of reinsurance Jeremy Brazil said: "It will keep pressure on rates - it's probably the nearest we'll get to the European equivalent of Enron.

"With the new players coming into the market, it may keep rates where they are and even provide reason to push them up even further."