ROME—Facing widespread criticism over his alleged sexual relationship with an underaged exotic dancer during his tenure as prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday assured the people of Italy that the woman in question was of legal age when he paid her for sex using the nation’s money. "Let me swear to you that these brazenly misappropriated state funds went toward financing my long-running sexual liaison with a call girl who was of full legal age throughout our affair," the career politician and media tycoon told reporters, adding that the exotic dancer with whom he had intercourse dozens of times during his time in office was "at least" 18 years old when she received thousands of euros in jewelry and air travel courtesy of Italy's depleted treasury. "Despite what my critics say, this sexual relationship made possible through considerable taxpayer financing was something that occurred between two consenting adults. This has been the case with every single one of my government-subsidized affairs, and the people of Italy know that." Berlusconi, who was forced out of office in 2011 over concerns about his ability to resuscitate Italy's stagnant economy amid a litany of embarrassing sex scandals, is expected to be fully forgiven by the Italian citizenry.