Switzerland was once a global crossroads of crime and money.
It was a country where dictators, corrupt officials, drug kingpins and common crooks could put their loot with virtual impunity, hiding behind banking secrecy laws the Swiss stuck to with zealous devotion.
But from the 1980s, Switzerland has gradually weakened the 75-year-old legal regime that made it a haven for shady funds. That sprang from a genuine desire to cleanse the system of the taint of crime, as well as international pressure that has intensified since terrorist financing became a global concern and chasing tax-dodgers became a political priority in the US and Europe.
Two years ago, Hans Rudolf-Merz, then the Swiss finance minister, said the country was tightening fiscal policy further and did not want to feature on an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development blacklist of tax havens.
"This is a softening of absolute bank secrecy", he said at the time, according to a Bloomberg News report. "It won't be met with joy at all the banks."
Other long-time havens have followed suit, including Austria and Luxembourg. But lawyers say the swiftness with which Switzerland has acted against embattled Middle Eastern and North African regimes in recent months underscores an especially poignant break from its culture of secrecy.
Switzerland was the first country to announce asset freezes against Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president who was ousted in January, and Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president ousted the following month. It was also first to freeze accounts connected to regimes in Libya and Syria as they contend with months of protests and fighting.
"Switzerland has decided to fight against the presence of that kind of money," says Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer known as the "dictator hunter" for his efforts to recover funds stolen by the former Nigerian dictator, the late Sani Abacha.
"Switzerland is no longer a safe haven for these people. They know that. Since the Abacha case came out, they tend to go elsewhere or remain in Switzerland and become more astute in hiding the money and laundering the money better."
According to Mr Monfrini and other observers, the new havens for illicit funds are far from the traditional European centres, although Jersey and Guernsey - a pair of British islands off the coast of France - remain attractive for some.
Observers say such money is moving eastwards to such places as Hong Kong and Singapore, and to Central America and even into some parts of the Middle East.
As an international consensus builds around isolating corrupt leaders and criminals from the global financial system, however, many people say it will not be long before the remaining offshore jurisdictions tighten the screws.
Alongside direct political pressure from some of the world's leading countries, the UN in 2003 enacted its convention against corruption, which required signatory nations to assist each other in finding and returning ill-gotten gains. Switzerland signed it, as did Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and the UAE.
"I think the noose is becoming tighter and dictators have to think twice now before they can just move assets out of the country," says Abdul Aziz al Yaqout, the Middle East head of DLA Piper, a global law firm.
"You will never solve the problem because you will always find [someone] who, for a good fee, will take care of [the money].
"But you can make it more difficult for them."
Following this year's revolutions in North Africa, lawyers say co-operation on seizing assets from Switzerland and other jurisdictions will be tested like never before as new governments try to recover money squirrelled away in foreign banks by fallen regimes. Uncomfortable requests will be lodged with offshore centres that have so far stayed out of the spotlight, they say, putting more pressure on them to shape up.
Whatever the results, getting money back will also be a political priority for populations thirsty for financial retribution - a fact already demonstrated by shrill calls from interim governments in Egypt and Tunisia for countries across the globe to freeze assets of the regimes of Mr Mubarak and Mr Ben Ali.
"The principle shout being raised on the streets during the Arab Spring was about corruption and unelected governments helping themselves to enormous benefits without looking after the people," says Jeremy Carver, a lawyer based in London and a board member of the anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International.
* with reporting by Tom Arnold